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Congressman David Rivera sweats, ducks questions about federal grand-jury probe on TV

Picture 19There are two David Riveras.

 One of them goes on Spanish-language radio and TV where he holds forth, relatively unchallenged, to deny basic facts about The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald stories detailing the Republican Congressman's ties to a campaign that's the subject of a federal grand jury investigation in a cash-for-mailers scheme (last story is here). Denying investigations is nothing new for Rivera, who said last year he wasn't under state investigation and had no lawyer. But it turns out, he was under investigation and had a lawyer at the time he made his misstatements.

The other David Rivera says almost nothing in English about the investigation. He refuses to answer simple yes or no questions, issues statements from a campaign email account and doesn't sweat any details -- though he sweated through the difficult questions Friday during interviews with WPLG-10's Michael Putney and WSVN-7's Carmel Cafiero.

Both had to hunt Rivera down at an event and had a devil of a time getting Rivera to directly answer questions about his ties to Democratic candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, who lost to Joe Garcia in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary. They asked him at least 10 times.

Here's how WSVN begins its piece on the web: "Florida congressman David Rivera dodging questions about the campaign of a failed candidate that is now the focus of an FBI investigation." And WPLG's headline: "Congressman avoids questions about filing false financial campaign reports."

These are not the kinds of optics a campaign wants.

But, with a majority-Hispanic congressional seat stretching from Kendall-to-Key West, it might not matter. It appears that Rivera has decided to give access and answers to Spanish-language media, which probably means that he expects to blow away Democrat Joe Garcia, using stations like Radio Mambi that play to older Cuban-Americans.

On Univision (channel 23), Rivera waved Sternad's campaign finance disclosure forms in front of the reporter and camera as evidence that Sternad had reported his expenses. What he didn't tell Univision is that the reports were filed a week after the Aug. 14 primary, a potential violation of federal campaign finance laws.
In the same interview, Rivera also argued that he had never exchanged emails with Sternad nor his campaign vendors. What he didn't say was that he had told the Miami Herald that his campaign may have erroneously exchanged emails with the same campaign vendors during the Democratic primary campaign.

Rivera still hasn't answered, in any language, how he got access to Sternad's amended financial reports before they became public record. Nor has he explained how he has shown relatively detailed knowledge about Sternad's finances. Nor has he clearly explained why his former campaign vendors, who happened to work for Sternad as well, said he was involved with Sternad's campaign. Nor has he said why his lady friend Ana Alliegro, a self-described "Republican political guru" just happened to be the campaign manager for Sternad the Democrat.


Rivera: "Well, as you know, Michael, I've made various statements on this matter. I've issued several statements on this matter. If you haven't received those statements, I'll make sure and get them to you. I think those statements speak very clearly for themselves."

Putney: What about the ties between the political vendors in the two campaigns who say you were involved?

Rivera: "As you know, Michael, I've addressed that issue in statements that I've made the past few days...."

Putney... "How about just telling us right now, then?"

Cafiero: "Yeah, yes or no. I mean, come on..."

Putney: "You know, face to face. Here we are."

Rivera: "As you know, I've addressed those issues in statements that I've made publicly over the last few days...

Putney: "People at home are going to watch this and say how about a simple yes or no...."

Cafiero: "Why not a simple yes or no?

Rivera: "The simple yes or no has been spoken of in the last several days..."

Putney: "...but you're not going to say it."

Rivera: "Oh, I have said it for many times in the last several days...."

Cafiero: "...right now, here we are...."

Rivera: "In the last several days, I have repeatedly responded to this matter..."

Cafiero: "Did you or did not not support this man?"

Rivera: "Well as you know Carmel, I've issued several statements on this matter."

Cafiero: "Did you or did you not support this man in any way in his campaign?"

Rivera: "Carmel you're very aware I've issued a statement on this matter."

Cafiero: "We can't get a yes or a no?"

Rep. David Rivera: "I've made a very important decision by going forward with the campaign...."

Cafiero: "'re standing here talking to me why won't you say yes or no?"

Rivera: "...and the statements I have made."

Later, Rivera's campaign sent this statement: "Congressman Rivera has never met Mr. Sternad, has never spoken to Mr. Sternad, knows nothing about Mr. Sternad and has no connection whatsoever to Mr. Sternad or his campaign."