In My Opinion

Rivera’s money mysteries pile up

 

fgrimm@MiamiHerald.com

It seems almost impolite to bring up David Rivera’s orphaned $50,000 — money we’re not sure from where, spent on we’re not sure for what — given the extent of the Miami congressman’s financial shenanigans.

Another 50 grand of peculiar origins on Rivera’s account sheets was like finding loose change under the sofa cushions for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, whose investigators spent 18 months sorting through strange consulting contracts, dummy shell companies, undeclared loans, peculiar campaign expenditures and confounding financial-disclosure declarations.

The FDLE, for example, had to trace some $500,000 back through a “company” that basically consisted of Rivera’s mother, who received the money from a Miami dog track that had hired Rivera in 2008, at the time a state senator, to run its pro-slot machine campaign. The money went to Momma, who, apparently would make David the occasional loan. The FDLE reported that her do-nothing company, Millennium Marketing, once lent him $132,000, a transaction that slipped his mind when the candidate filled out his financial declaration forms.

Before he was elected to Congress, state Sen. Rivera’s haphazard bookkeeping suggested he seemed to live off his campaign contributions, as if his very existence was no more than a perpetual campaign. State law doesn’t seem to endorse such behavior, but state law — lucky for Rivera — has a two-year statute of limitations for prosecuting campaign contributions.

“By the calendar year 2011, the statute of limitations had eliminated the possibility of charging the subject with any violation....” the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office concluded. “The overwhelming majority of the possible transactions available for prosecution as misdemeanors were barred because of the statute of limitations.”

Given all that, another inexplicable $50,000 might not seem worth mentioning. Except this relatively piddling bit of accounting perfectly illustrated Rivera’s pattern of obscure, downright byzantine financial reporting. Herald reporters Patricia Mazzei and Scott Hiaasen noticed that on the very same day in 2006, a little known organization called Republican National Hispanic Assembly (either the central Florida version or the Miami chapter — it’s hard to tell) paid Rivera’s mother’s company $25,000. Same day again, his very, very close political consultant gets another $25,000. All this on the same day that the Republican Party of Florida transfers $50,000 to an organization called the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. Except the Republican National Hispanic Assembly has no record of receiving the money.

Rivera told Mazzei and Hiaasen that the money financed a voter outreach program in the 2006 elections. He produced some records indicating absentee ballot materials had been mailed to Miami voters. Who knows? Voter outreach, Miami style, doesn’t generate so many receipts.

Not that Florida gets so excited about such matters anyway. Last week Orlando Democratic State Sen. Gary Siplin agreed to pay a $3,000 fine after reporting that he spent $13,000 for “money orders for poll workers” in the 2008 election, without bothering to report their names or addresses.

But this Miami subterfuge was far more complex, with $50,000 going through some strange and circuitous route, before disappearing in the 2006 election — just another Rivera money mystery.

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