Oh, how he stretched that $438. Reporters Caputo and Manny Garcia have detailed how this financial magician spent $43,000 on his campaign — paying the bills with envelopes stuffed with $100 bills. Much of the cash went through Rivera’s favorite vendors and operatives and a certain bad girl guru. Except Sternad’s cash-and-carry campaign didn’t quite jibe with the near-nothing he reported in his federal financial disclosure declarations — at least not until The Herald’s reporting caught the attention of the FBI.
Suddenly, as the feds came sniffing around, Lamar remembered that he had loaned his campaign another $53,000 in addition to that original $11,000 loan. Last week, he filed an amended campaign report. “I did not previously report this loan because I was unaware of the final monetary obligation incurred by my campaign,” he explained to the Federal Elections Commission. (I mean, really, how can a busy congressional candidate be expected to keep up with such piddling minutiae?) Sternad apparently plans to stave off election fraud charges with a legal defense lawyers call “better late than never.”
So, according to the amended report, our 35-year-old $30,000-a-year service industry worker, husband and father of four dug into his personal savings to finance a sure-fire loser of a congressional campaign. Lamar might have an easier time explaining his expenses to the FBI than his wife. “Honey, about that $64,000 in hundred-dollar bills we had kept stashed in the cookie jar….”
Another fellow in dire need of plausible explanations might be David Rivera, who must convince the feds that he wasn’t secretly providing cash and tactical support for the illegal shadow campaign of a patsy named Lamar. A primary campaign, by the way, that was mostly a vicious and mendacious attack on Rivera’s Democratic opponent in the November general election.
Of course, Rivera, unlike Sternad, has plenty of experience wriggling his way out of sticky legal situations. The congressman survived a months-long investigation into his own peculiar campaign expenditures (pioneering the concept of a highly visible girlie companion as necessary political expense for a single guy candidate) and his surreptitious work as a consultant for a dog track. He routed gobs of money through his mother and a family friend who, in turn, loaned the money back to their boy David. None of these transgressions rang up any criminal charges, though the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office blamed the statute of limitations and permissive state laws governing campaign expenses. The feds, however, are still nosing around those old charges.
In Rivera’s defense — the only defense that comes to mind — it’s hard to imagine that with all his other legal problems, with criminal investigators already sifting through his affairs, that he’d sanction such a mindless scheme to mount an illegal campaign against his Democratic opponent. Surely, Rivera wouldn’t risk so much on the vague hope that his alleged co-conspirator wouldn’t flip under the pressure of a criminal investigation. And this particular loser from Omaha looks about as likely to withstand a FBI grilling as my Aunt Millie.
Rivera would know, surely, that Lamar would take him only as far as a federal lock-up.