Saturday, January 29, 2011

Florida Republicans Lining Up To Try To Replace David Rivera As More Corruption Charges Unfold


Florida elected a lot of new Republican congressmen in November, almost all of them off-the-chart teabaggers. But David Rivera from the southern tip of the state is unlike most of the others. A political opportunist with no genuine ideological lodestar to guide him, Rivera has been all over the map politically-- and can best be described as a career hack politician, a very corrupt one in fact.

Like all the Republicans in the House, last week Rivera voted to repeal healthcare reform for his own hard-pressed constituents. But unlike Florida newcomers Rich Nugent, Daniel Webster and Sandy Adams-- all of whom, like Rivera, had campaigned on repealing healthcare-- Rivera opted to keep government-subsidized healthcare for himself. The others turned it down. It's the kind of politician Rivera is, and has always been.
Fifty-three percent of voters in a survey from Public Policy Polling said lawmakers who ran against the reforms should stay true to their rhetoric and refuse government coverage. Among Republican voters in the survey, that figure jumped to 58 percent.

The survey is just the latest indication that lawmakers who ran in opposition to the healthcare law might find themselves in a pickle as the reforms kick in and lawmakers are forced to buy their health insurance from state-based exchanges.

Last week we mentioned how some of Rivera's corruption was starting to catch up and overwhelm him, despite cooperation from a politically ambitious Democratic State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, to help him whitewash the latest charges. Before we come back to why the whitewash is failing, let's take a quick look at why someone of Rivera's caliber is in office in the first place.

In 2008, the 25th CD, specifically gerrymandered to provide a safe base for Cuban Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, started looking shaky. George W. Bush's healthy majorities in 2000 (55%) and 2004 (56%) were reduced to a near-miss for McCain (50%). As for Diaz-Balart, he saw a 2006 midterm sweep of 58% turn into a too-close-for-comfort 53% in 2008. Diaz-Balart drew 130,891 voters to Joe Garcia's 115,820. When Diaz-Balart's older brother Lincoln decided to concentrate his energy on becoming the next president of Cuba, giving up his House seat, Mario decided to grab his brother's more safely red seat and leave his own to the fates. Joe Garcia jumped into the race again, and so did one of Miami-Dade's sleaziest and most corrupt state legislators, Rubio crony Rivera.

Angry Florida voters stayed away from the polls in droves, especially Democrats who had invested so many hopes, and were so disappointed, in Obama. The economy in South Florida is a shambles, and Obama's careful conservatism has been a pale shadow of what his 2008 base had hoped for. Garcia suffered. Of his 115,820 voters two years before, only 60,123 bothered showing up. Rivera didn't inspire much more confidence. Only 74,386 of Diaz-Balart's 130,891 2008 voters showed up to vote for him. It was enough to drag him over the finish line, though.

It's been all downhill since then, with one scandal after another hitting the headlines of the local papers. And this week A.P. was on the case with what many feel will be the coup de grĂ¢ce for a career-- even by Florida's shockingly low standards-- to be out of control.
Freshman U.S. Rep. David Rivera, who is facing a state criminal investigation of his finances, paid himself more than $60,000 in unexplained campaign reimbursements over the eight years he served in the state legislature, an Associated Press examination of his records shows.

Serving as his own campaign treasurer, the Miami Republican didn't report any details for more than a third of the roughly $160,000 in expenses for which he reimbursed himself, other than simply calling them campaign expenses, according to the records.

The AP review also shows his total reimbursements far exceeded those claimed by 12 other top Florida state legislators who served with him. Those lawmakers-- both Democrats and Republicans-- usually gave at least some explanation of how the money had been spent, as required by Florida law. Rivera denies wrongdoing.

This kind of blatant corruption is completely consistent with an m.o. Rivera has developed over the years. Like many corrupt politicians he treats political contributions as a personal piggy bank, but unlike most of them, he doesn't even deign to cover his corruption up. If someone donates money to his campaign, they might as well be paying his personal bills for his homes, cars, meals, hookers, whatever.

Congressional Republican leaders are embarrassed by Rivera's behavior, or at least by his sloppiness in getting caught. When Boehner, whom no one would call an angel, or even a stickler, when it comes to ethics, was asked about the exploding corruption case Wednesday, all he could say was: "As I understand the allegations against Mr. Rivera, they don't involve any of his congressional service. These are activities that took place before he was elected. And I think we are waiting to see how this plays out."

Back in Florida, Republican leaders are starting to panic. There are whispers than even in Miami-Dade, voters can only be pushed so far before realizing they're being lied to and manipulated. Some Republican political leaders in Florida are "urging him to explain his finances while others are already talking of potential GOP successors to replace him... [A] prominent Republican attorney in Miami called for Rivera to fully explain himself or 'step down.'''
In a letter to the Miami Herald, Thomas Spencer, who is active in Miami-Dade and state Republican politics, said Rivera needs to "fully and completely, without delay or obfuscation, disgorge and fully explain every single relevant fact and document-- or he needs to step down.

"Litigation will only erode the reputation of our community in the United States House of Representatives and impugn the good name of our Congressional delegation-- all of whom have brought pride for their service to their districts,'' said Spencer, who was a co-counsel for former President George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount.

Spencer, who said he has talked to a number of other Republicans, said he plans to call on top Republicans to ask Rivera to release more details about the investigation. "It's time for us to step up to the bat and put pressure on him to get him to fork over every single document,'' he said Friday.

...At the heart of the probe is Millennium Marketing, a company owned by Rivera's mother and godmother that received $510,000 from the Flagler Dog Track as part of a deal for Rivera to lead a pro-slots political campaign on behalf of the parimutuel.

Rivera, who had long denied receiving any money from the dog track, earlier this month admitted to receiving $132,000 in undisclosed loans from Millennium-- loans Rivera says he has since repaid.

Also under investigators' microscope: Rivera's campaign expenses, including $30,000 he paid to Millennium for consulting in 2006, and $75,000 he paid last year to a now-defunct consulting company owned by the daughter of a longtime aide. Rivera has denied any wrongdoing.

The Associated Press reported Friday that Rivera paid himself nearly $60,000 in unexplained campaign reimbursements over the eight years he served in the state Legislature.

House Republicans, furious with the allegations, said there's talk of a list of Republicans who could run for a special election if Rivera is forced to resign.

Former state Sen. Alex Villalobos said he has been asked about running for the seat, but that he isn't interested. He wouldn't say who approached him.

"David did it to himself,'' Villalobos said of the chatter about recruiting candidates. He noted that "everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty,'' but added that what party leaders have to decide is if Rivera is still electable.

"The question is whether or not he's damaged enough that he can adequately represent that district,'' Villalobos said.

Former state Rep. J.C. Planas said he and others are considering a challenge.

"Obviously I think we can do better as a community,'' said Planas, an attorney who left office because of term limits.

"Nobody is entitled to their seat,'' he added. "If for some reason somebody is to tarnish that privilege, it is anybody's right to say they can do better.''

Newly elected teabag Senator Marco Rubio, who once shared a party house in Tallahassee with Marco Rubio, with whom he was widely known to be closest friends-- as thick as thieves, in fact-- when confronted with the charges against Rivera, basically said, David who? The most support he could muster for a man who knows where all the bodies are buried was, "I have confidence in our judicial process.''

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At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd look into his "campaign strategy." There's speculation that there was a lot of absentee voter fraud in Miami-Dade County via senior citizen centers and brokers alledgely selling votes...


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