I miss David. He was always there for me.
Before the voters in Miami’s 26th Congressional District dumped David Rivera, he was Mr. Dependable for a columnist, an unending source of material with his financial chicanery and phantom companies and his convoluted explanations. His life was like performance theater, living satire of a political contribution system gone amok.
Rivera, starting back when he was a state legislator, had styled himself as the perpetual candidate. “Essentially, the subject’s position is that he was for a period of almost a decade, continuously and simultaneously engaging in official business, campaigning for public office, as well as campaigning for committeeman; moving from one task to another seamlessly on a daily basis,” the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office reported.
A perpetual candidate, of course, needs perpetual access to his campaign accounts. Rivera’s ethos assumed, the report said, that “virtually every travel-related expenditure: airfare, automobile costs, lodging, meals and related miscellaneous expenses for personal items and entertainment were indeed permissible campaign-related expenditures.”
Rivera even rationalized his girlfriend’s travel costs as a legitimate campaign expense, because, well, a bachelor politician in South Florida must be mindful of appearances. He had other problems, of course. A shell company set up to disguise his work for a racino. And his bizarre meddling in the Democratic primary. An FBI investigation. All of it, great stuff for me.
Unhappily, Rivera’s entertainment value failed to translate into votes. He lost by 11 percentage points in November. He’s out of a job. Worse, I’m out of David.
In Central Florida, voters — similarly oblivious to the needs of newspaper columnists — ousted another very newsy, less-than-ethical free spender. Rep. Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary, anointed as the next speaker of the House, was both living well, and well beyond his means, thanks to the gaping loopholes in Florida’s political contribution laws.
The would-be speaker had not made a mortgage payment on his $1.6 million house in three years. Along with his daunting debts, he was a scofflaw with unpaid freeway tolls. Yet Dorworth managed a fine lifestyle out of his personal campaign fund, the so-called Citizens for an Enterprising Democracy. Contributions from big corporate donors, via way of the political fund, paid for lavish travel, fancy meals, hefty bar bills, a Super Bowl trip, even Dorworth’s personalized polo shirts.
Life, even in bankruptcy, can be good for a powerful pol with his own “committee of continuing existence” as they call these unregulated slush funds. Us news guys thought Dorworth was a great story. The voters, not so much.
These Election Day defeats must have sent a fright to Tallahassee. Senate President Don Gaetz has promised to curb what he called the “filet-mignon lifestyle’’ financed by CCEs. House Speaker Will Weatherford says they’re beyond fixing. He’d rather just outlaw CCEs. Both leaders promise to push other reforms this coming session.
All this ethics stuff, well, it may be good for democracy. But what about the news business? Days like this, well, I really miss David.