Rivera’s 2002 campaign adviser, Al Lorenzo, also told The Herald he recalled discussions about using Dorticos in a radio ad to rebut the domestic violence charge. Lorenzo later recanted everything he said to the paper about Dorticos.
But if Rivera didn’t know Dorticos, then how could he have recruited her for ads in 2002? Rivera never answered the question, saying only that he did “not recall” the flier with his campaign address and Dorticos’ photo.
The controversy brought attention to another puzzling incident from Rivera’s 2002 campaign: A car wreck involving a mail truck carrying his opponent’s attack mailers about Dorticos.
A campaign spokesman said Rivera pulled the truck over to retrieve his own mailers, which were on the same truck with his opponent’s attack ads, and the truck hit his car as they pulled out on the Palmetto Expressway. But the truck driver told police at the time that Rivera had hit the truck, and officials with the printing company told The Herald that Rivera took nothing off the truck. No one was charged.
Rivera won the Republican primary in 2010 — but the scrutiny had begun.
During most of his years in the Legislature, Rivera submitted financial reports saying he worked “international development consulting” with the U.S. Agency for International Development, through a Puerto Rican company called Interamerican Government Relations. But USAID, which administers aid to foreign countries, has no record of ever hiring Rivera or his company.
Rivera initially told The Herald he received USAID contracts through competitive bidding. But when told that USAID had no record of his business, he then told the newspaper he worked for USAID through a subcontractor — whom he has declined to name.
Rivera’s campaign also gave the newspaper travel records of trips he made to Mexico and Chile as “examples of Mr. Rivera’s development work.” However, some portions of the records were blacked out — because, as his campaign spokeswoman said, the information “may be considered classified.”
But The Herald discovered that Rivera’s trips to Mexico and Chile were not part of any USAID work. The trips were sponsored by the U.S. State Department as part of an informational program that sends American politicians and academics overseas to give speeches and attend conferences; a state department spokesman said Rivera traveled only as a “private citizen” and not as a USAID contractor.
Within days, Rivera amended his financial disclosure forms in Tallahassee — omitting any reference to USAID.
Rivera’s financial disclosures also raised questions about his relationship with another company called Millennium Marketing — a company founded by Rivera’s 72-year-old mother and godmother. He said he was paid for consulting work for a security firm through Millennium; and in response to questions from The Herald, Rivera described Millennium as a “former client” that he helped with “marketing” and “client development.”
Rivera also paid $30,000 to Millennium to work on his 2006 re-election campaign — including one $15,000 payment made two days after the company was created, records show.
The articles on Rivera’s finances caught the attention of the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, who joined the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the fall of 2010 to open an investigation of Rivera’s finances. Weeks later, Rivera defeated Joe Garcia and won his seat in Congress.