ENG: David Mauricio Rivera (born September 16, 1965) was the U.S. Representative for Florida's 25th congressional district. He is a member of the Republican Party. He is a Miami-based public affairs consultant and formerly represented District 112 in the Florida House of Representatives.
Early life, education, and early career
Rivera was born in New York City on September 16, 1965 and moved to Florida in 1974. He graduated from Miami Christian High School. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Political Science from Florida International University in 1986 and his MPA in 1994.
After college, Rivera worked as Public Affairs Director for the Washington D.C.-based Valladares Foundation, an international human rights NGO.
The organization was founded by U.S. Ambassador Armando Valladares, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Then, he worked for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting managed by auspices of the U.S. State Department. He has also been an adjunct professor in the FIU School of Policy and Management. His articles on U.S.-Cuba relations have been published in The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.
Florida House of Representatives
Rivera was first elected to the Florida House in 2002. He was the chair of the Full Appropriations Council on Education & Economic Development, which oversees Florida's budget in areas such as education, transportation, housing, and economic development. He was first elected in 2002 and successively reelected in 2004, 2006 and 2008. In addition to his legislative office, he has served the Republican Party as State Committeeman for the Republican Party of Florida and as the Executive Director for the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County.
U.S. House of Representatives - 2010 election
Rivera ran against Democratic nominee Joe Garcia, Tea Party nominee Roly Arrojo, and Florida Whig Party nominee Craig Porter.
In January 2009, Rivera filed to run for the state senate seat being vacated by J. Alex Villalobos. However, when neighboring U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart decided not to run for another term in 2010, his brother, local Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, opted to run for a new term in Lincoln's district rather than his current one. This created an opening in the 25th Congressional District seat and prompted Rivera to announce, on February 25, 2010, that he would instead be a candidate for U.S.
Congress in Florida's 25th district.
On November 2, 2010, Rivera was elected to represent Florida's 25th congressional district by beating Democratic nominee Joe Garcia by a margin of 52.1% to 42.6%. (See U.S. House of Representatives elections in Florida, 2010).
After the 2010 Census, Rivera's district was renumbered as the 26th District. It lost its share of Collier County and picked up the Florida Keys, as well as portions of Miami-Dade County. While the old 25th leaned Republican, the new 26th is more of a swing district and is equally split between Democrats and Republicans.
In a rematch, Rivera (42.9%) lost to Joe Garcia (54%) in the 2012 general election.
Controversies - Dog track payments
The Miami Herald has reported that "[t]he Miami-Dade state attorney's office is investigating more than $500,000 in secret payments from the owners of the Flagler Dog Track to a company tied to" Rivera.
According to the Herald: "Most of the money was paid in early 2008, weeks after Rivera -- then a member of the Florida House of Representatives -- helped run a political campaign backed by the dog track to win voter approval for Las Vegas-style slot machines at parimutuel venues in Miami-Dade County." Rivera did not report any income from either company in financial disclosure forms filed with the Florida Ethics Commission, but instead "reported that he worked during those years as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development," which had no record of him ever having worked there. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement subsequently took the lead in the investigation.
In July 2012, the State Attorney’s office released documents regarding their investigation, including a bill of information which listed 52 charges prepared against Rivera. The bulk of the charges listed were for grand theft and money laundering, as well as racketeering and illegal use of campaign funds. Other charges for theft were also included.
The close-out memo provided by the State Attorney indicated that Rivera was not charged due to a statute of limitations and because of the difficulty in trying the case, citing lack of precedence in the Florida courts in dealing with such egregious behavior by a politician. Despite the decision not to prosecture, the State Attorney made a strong case that Rivera had indeed broken the law, saying "[David Rivera] intentionally committed multiple instances of theft by converting funds in his campaign depositories and using them for purposes otherwise not permitted by law".
While the State Attorney and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have closed their cases, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service continue to investigate.
Funding a shadow campaign
In August 2012, The Miami Herald reported that Rivera and campaign allies may have secretly funded a Democratic primary challenger to Joe Garcia in order to prevent the latter from prevailing in the primary, resulting in a re-match of the 2010 congressional election.
Justin Lamar Sternad, a hotel auditor and political unknown in South Florida, filed to run for Congress against Garcia, and fought a largely negative campaign. Sternad's campaign issued direct mailers to voters, portraying himself as a black man who stood for "justice for Trayvon Martin" to Africa-American communities, and sent mailers to the largely Caucasian community in the Florida Keys alleging that he was the only candidate born in the United States and was "as American as apple pie". Garcia was born in Miami Beach, Florida.
Many of his mailers were sophisticated and contained conservative positions, such as making English the official language of the United States and opposing immigration reform policies. Sternad also attacked Garcia's family, claiming that, "like Newt Gingrich and John Edwards", Garcia had left his wife after she developed cancer. Garcia and his wife had a mutual and amicable divorce, and she later hosted a fundraiser for his campaign.
According to the owner of the direct mail company utilized by Sternad and the owner of the company that gathered the voter lists to mail to, Rivera was directly involved in the planning and funding of Sternad's attacks, going as far as directing an employee to retrieve an envelope with $7,000 worth of cash in the mailbox outside the business. Later developments showed that Sternad's campaign manager was Ana Alliegro, a close personal friend of Rivera's and a self-described "conservative bad girl."
Later in August, the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that they were conducting an investigation into the allegations, and had interviewed several of those involved. On September 7, 2012, the Miami Herald reported that Alliegro had gone missing after failing to appear for questioning one day after her computer, mobile phone, and other items were seized in a raid on her apartment. Her parents and lawyer claim to have had no contact with her since her sudden disappearance.
On September 25, the Herald reported that Sternad was cooperating with the FBI in its investigation of Rivera. According to sources close to the investigation, Sternad told the FBI that Rivera had indeed secretly funded his primary challenge to Garcia, with Alliegro acting as the go-between. Sternad claimed that he'd figured out Rivera was the person funneling money to him after seeing pictures of Rivera and Alliegro together on Facebook and Twitter. Although Sternad knew that the extra money would raise suspicions given his modest finances, he went along because Rivera--or "D. R.," as Alliegro called him--had promised to get Sternad a better job.
Rivera continues to deny any involvement and has said he does not know Sternad.
January 23, 2013