David Rivera (R-FL) Unmasked... Officially This Time
If New Yorkers are under the impression that congressional corruption begins and ends with Gambino Crime Family affiliate/congressman Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm from Staten Island, they were disabused of that notion when they opened their hometown paper of record yesterday. Yes, CREW picked Grimm as one of their posterboys of congressional corruption this year, but they also put Miami crime figure David Rivera (R-FL) in the same sordid category. But Lizette Alvarez's New York Times story on Florida houses races certainly must have made New Yorkers realize that Grimm has some serious competition for America's Most Corrupt! (And wait 'til they find out that California's Buck McKeon makes both these guys look like rank amateurs! But that's a story the Times hasn't uncovered yet.) Back to Rivera:
“It’s a true swing state, and a close state ignites people’s passions,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Republican consultant who lives in Miami Beach. Add to that the state’s mix of immigrants, many from countries well practiced in tainted politics, and New Yorkers, who are accustomed to delighting in political rumbles, and the result is not altogether unpredictable."Mr. Rubio has been asked to intervene." That's a joke, since Rivera was Rubio's henchman when Rubio was Speaker and Rivera and he shared a party house in Tallahassee, where money, women and drugs flowed freely. The press release from Florida's Ethics Commission Wednesday is something Marco Rubio isn't going to want to get anywhere near-- not now, not ever. "The Commission found probable cause to believe that U.S. Congressman DAVID RIVERA, former member of the Florida House of Representatives, may have violated Florida ethics laws in 11 instances while serving in the Florida House of Representatives. Probable cause was found to believe that he received income from Southwest Florida Enterprises, Inc. (SFEI) while he was a member of the Florida House, when he knew, or with the exercise of reasonable care should have known it was given to influence his vote or official action. Probable cause also was found to believe that his contract with SFEI through Millennium Marketing, Inc. (Millennium) would create a frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and his public duties as a Florida House member or would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. The Commission also found probable cause to believe that Mr. Rivera misused his public position by using campaign funds for non-campaign related expenditures..." It goes on-- and so do ace reporters Scott Hiaasen and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald, which Rivera is reduced to claiming is part of a conspiracy against him.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in South Florida.
Since he was elected to Congress in 2010, Mr. Rivera, one of three Republican Cuban-American House members from Miami, has been dogged by allegations of wrongdoing while he was a state legislator. On Wednesday he was charged by the Florida Commission on Ethics with 11 counts of filing fraudulent financial disclosure forms, misusing campaign funds and concealing a $1 million consulting contract with a Miami gambling business while he served in the State House.
Mr. Rivera, who was Senator Marco Rubio’s roommate when both were state representatives, called the charges false in a statement, but he is also confronting another series of damaging accusations.
The Miami Herald has reported that Mr. Rivera ran a puppet candidate in the Democratic primary against his Democratic challenger, Joe Garcia, who lost to Mr. Rivera in 2010. The candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, a part-time hotel worker with no political experience, has told the F.B.I. that Mr. Rivera was secretly behind his race, The Herald reported. The newspaper said Mr. Rivera funneled as much as $43,000 to Mr. Sternad, who paid cash this summer for expensive campaign fliers attacking Mr. Garcia. A federal grand jury is investigating.
One witness in the case-- a political operative who describes herself on Twitter as a “Republican Political Guru and Conservative Bad Girl!”-- vanished hours before she was scheduled to talk to prosecutors. Mr. Rivera, who declined through his lawyer to comment, has said he has done nothing wrong and knows of no investigation.
“We are not going to respond to unfounded rumors and innuendo,” said his lawyer, Michael R. Band. But, he added, “it’s like a Carl Hiaasen novel.”
Analysts say Mr. Garcia stands a good chance of winning next month. And if so, he would be a new breed of Cuban-American in the House: a Democrat who supports travel by Americans to Cuba.
Meanwhile, his party has stepped back from Mr. Rivera.
“I know the Republicans are putting enormous pressure on him to drop out,” Mr. Stone said, adding that Mr. Rubio has been asked to intervene.
But Mr. Rivera, who was named the most corrupt member of Congress this year by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a nonpartisan group in Washington, has refused to back down. Recently, he ran a television advertisement saying, inaccurately, that Mr. Garcia was “under investigation for breaking the law.”
Last week, Mr. Garcia counterpunched, starting a Web site, davidriverafacts.com, delineating the accusations. An accompanying video warns: “The more we know, the worse it gets.”
Already facing FBI probes and a daunting reelection, U.S. Rep. David Rivera was charged Wednesday by state authorities with 11 counts of violating ethics laws for filing bogus financial disclosure forms, misusing campaign funds and concealing a $1 million consulting contract with a Miami gambling business while serving in the state Legislature.Unless they botch the investigation or cover it up for a quickie resignation or plea deal, those "phantom sources" will prove to be international cocaine cash and will end not just Rivera's career but Rubio's as well. Who remembers when Boehner and Cantor solemnly pledged to teh American people they would take responsibility for keeping the Republican caucus on the straight and narrow and having "zero tolerance" for this kind of corrupt behavior? Has Boehner removed Grimm or Rivera from their committees? Not a chance. Even when another Republican from the House Armed Services Committee marched into Boehner's office and told him how McKeon's large and mounting gambling debts to Las Vegas/Macau crime figure Sheldon Adelson was endangering national security and that McKeon would sink the entire Republican Party, Boehner refused to take any substantial action. The tip of the iceberg has been uncovered but will the rest be exposed? Grimm and Rivera face real and independent media. McKeon's district media is a sad, pathetic joke-- not to mention the laughing stock that was once the L.A. Times-- and his problems are assiduously hidden from his constituents.
Investigators with the Florida Commission on Ethics found that Rivera’s secret deal to work as a political consultant for the Magic City Casino [for $510,000]-- formerly the Flagler Dog Track-- created a conflict of interest for the lawmaker. The ethics panel also found that the Republican broke state ethics laws by failing to fully disclose his finances from 2005 to 2009.
...The FBI and IRS are also investigating whether Rivera should have paid taxes on the Magic City money.
The ethics commission’s charges come as Rivera is facing a separate FBI probe into his suspected role in secretly financing the campaign of neophyte congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, who ran in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary against Rivera’s current challenger, Joe Garcia. Rivera has denied any role in Sternad’s campaign.
...In a flurry of television interviews Wednesday afternoon, Rivera claimed the case was rammed forward by the ethics commission’s chairwoman, Fort Lauderdale attorney Susan Horovitz Maurer, a Democrat. The commission is comprised of five Republican members and four Democrats.
The commission also accused Rivera of using campaign funds for personal use, relying on the FDLE’s finding that Rivera used campaign donations to pay off expenses on his personal credit cards. Rivera’s lawyers argue that the credit-card payments were intended to cover past campaign expenses that Rivera paid personally. Rivera has said that he’s still owed $75,000 for campaign costs he paid out of his own pocket.
Rivera also filed false or incomplete financial disclosure forms between 2005 and 2009, the commission found. Investigators said Rivera should have reported the Magic City payments through Millennium as income, and he also failed to report some real estate and a small number of stock holdings.
In addition, Rivera claimed he received income from phantom sources. For several years, Rivera said he worked as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. But USAID told The Herald and FDLE investigators that the agency never hired Rivera or his company.