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David Rivera pops into Cleveland to watch Marco Rubio debate


CLEVELAND -- Marco Rubio and David Rivera don't serve in Congress together anymore. They don't own a Tallahassee house together anymore. But the ties still go deep between the two Miami Republicans who spent years side-by-side in the Florida House of Representatives.

So when Senator Rubio took part in his first presidential debate Thursday -- a momentous event for any politician -- Rivera was there, in the audience at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Word spread quickly among the Floridians who had flown to Ohio to support either Rubio or Jeb Bush: There'd been a Rivera sighting!

Rivera, a former congressman, has so far managed to escape criminal indictment in a federal campaign-finance case in Miami. Though he's never been accused of wrongdoing in court -- early investigations into his finances in state court and by the IRS went nowhere -- a Florida panel has recommended his former statehouse colleagues fine him $58,000 over ethics violations. 

Despite the baggage he represents for Rubio -- the liberal group American Bridge blasted an email before the debate about the "Roomiez 4 Life" -- Rivera once was a close Rubio friend. Rubio's wife, Jeanette, showed up at the polls to campaign for Rivera the day he lost his congressional seat in 2012.

Rubio's campaign staff seemed less than thrilled about Rivera's appearance, so it's unclear who knew he was going to attend. Politico reported Rivera was spotted with another ex-state representative with a checkered political history, Ralph Arza.