I’ve mentioned the saga of Rep. David Rivera once before. He’s the South Florida Republican Congressman who paid for mailers for a fake Democratic “candidate” in the hopes that he could either drive up the negatives or defeat his likely opponent, Joe Garcia. Investigators, including the FBI, have already discovered a bounty of evidence showing Rivera’s fingerprints all over the mailers of the fake candidate, who makes a modest income but nonetheless allegedly self-funded his campaign with tens of thousands of dollars. He never reported the campaign expenditures to the FEC. And the invoices for the mailers were literally sent to Rivera with his name on them. Campaign finance laws were probably broken, in addition to conspiracy and possibly money laundering.
There have been developments in the case. Ana Alliegro, a key operative of Rivera’s, skipped town before facing questioning from federal investigators. Her whereabouts are unknown. However, she left behind even more key evidence in the case, in the form of envelopes stuffed with campaign cash. If you have a key election coming up in 45 days, you pretty much never want your name associated with “envelopes stuffed with campaign cash.”
Ana Alliegro, a Republican political operative, delivered the cash-stuffed envelopes to a Hialeah mail house that sent out fliers in a congressional race against a Rivera political rival, the mail house owner told the FBI.
The FBI has the envelopes to check for fingerprints and handwriting comparisons.
Also in the hands of FBI agents: at least six invoices initially made out to the attention of David Rivera — all marked paid “cash” — to cover the mailings for Democratic primary challenger Justin Lamar Sternad, a suspected Rivera straw-man candidate. The congressman demanded that his name be removed from the invoices with Wite-Out, documents and interviews show.
Alliegro went missing two weeks ago, shortly after her computer was seized by FBI agents and just hours before she was scheduled to talk to a federal prosecutor about her involvement in the Rivera-Sternad operation. She also had been jailed by Miami cops on an old suspended driver-license warrant.
This is the most delectable scandal this side of “Dollar Bill” Jefferson and the hundreds of thousands of dollars found inside a freezer in his house. Incidentally this is at least the SECOND federal grand jury investigation Rivera faces; the other concerns his personal as well as campaign finances.
The campaign has resonance for the entire state of Florida and possibly the Presidential election. Rivera represents part of the Miami area that includes a substantial Cuban population which typically votes Republican. Rivera previously appeared with Mitt Romney on the campaign trail in South Florida, but around the time that his chief operative disappeared, those joint appearances stopped. In addition, in Todd Akin-like fashion, the campaign committee for Republicans in the House has abandoned Rivera, even as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has booked $1.5 million in time for Joe Garcia.
I don’t think the bottom of the ticket affects the top too much, but such rampant corruption within this key Congressional district, which is likely to move it into the Democratic column, may move some voters away from the Republican Party at the margins. And Florida is close enough that this could make a difference.
Whatever the case, it’s a remarkable story of corruption, about as extreme as you can get in the political world.