TALLAHASSEE -- Under federal investigation, former U.S. Rep. David Rivera filed for Congress on Friday, chatting with fellow candidates in line while refusing to talk to the Miami Herald about his legal challenges.
“You can email me,” Rivera said repeatedly.
Rivera said he would take questions if they were in Spanish and said he planned to talk to a camera crew that was under contract with Spanish-language Telemundo to cover his filing.
“I’d rather get the sound privately,” Rivera told reporter Mike Vasilinda as they stood in the Florida Division of Elections office.
“If you have a question in English, you can email me,” he told the Herald when asked about a federal investigation into campaign-finance violations, which has resulted in one conviction and the indictment of Ana Alliegro, a close friend of Rivera’s.
Rivera appeared Thursday night on Ahora con Oscar Haza, a political talk show on Spanish-language Mega TV, and announced he would run against Democratic incumbent Joe Garcia, who beat the Republican U.S. representative in a 2012 race.
On the show, Rivera said the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald had reported lies about campaign-finance irregularities that led to the FBI investigation dogging him.
Alliegro is charged with helping illegally steer about $82,000 in falsely reported campaign money to the election account of a one-time candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, who used some of the money during the Democratic primary to bash Garcia as he ran against Rivera in 2012. Alliegro was Sternad’s reported campaign manager.
A large chunk of the money, $10,440, was used to pay Sternad’s qualifying fee to run for Congress.
Sternad has told the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office that Alliegro helped mastermind the plot and that she referred to a person he thought was Rivera as “the gangster.”
Sternad pleaded guilty last year to charges of lying on his federal election reports and accepting illegal contributions. He is scheduled to be sentenced after Alliegro’s trial this summer.
Alliegro, facing similar charges to Sternad, has pleaded not guilty. She was arrested in March in Nicaragua and remains in a federal jail. She has twice failed to qualify for pre-trial release because she’s considered a flight risk.
Rivera refused Friday to discuss his relationship with her and bristled when a reporter referred to Alliegro as his girlfriend.
After losing in 2012, Rivera’s congressional campaign listed $128,573.58 in debt and obligations.
When asked how he could afford the $10,440 state filing fee required in running for public office with such debts, Rivera did not comment.
Before Rivera can take on Garcia, he needs to get through a crowded Republican primary that includes Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo and former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez.
Curbelo leads in fundraising and endorsements, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and Miami Republican U.S. Reps Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Both Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen served with Rivera, but said they’re sticking by Curbelo.