Rivera & Improper Use Of Campaign Funds

Rivera Investigated For Money Laundering

Miami Herald: Rivera Was Nearly Charged With Money Laundering Campaign Contributions To His Personal Bank Account. According to the Miami Herald, “Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had waded through piles of credit-card receipts and banking records, tracing thousands of dollars from Rivera’s political campaigns to his personal accounts. Miami-Dade prosecutors were preparing a ‘draft’ complaint charging the Republican congressman with 52 counts of theft, money laundering and racketeering. The lengthy probe of Rivera’s finances ‘unequivocally explains the theft and/or fraud of campaign funds,’ FDLE inspector Brett Lycett wrote in a July 5, 2011, e-mail to a prosecutor. ‘We believe the violations are quite evident.’ But in the ensuing months — after Rivera’s lawyer poked holes in the case — the investigators’ confidence gave way to prosecutors’ increasing skepticism about the potential charges. The 52-count complaint accusing Rivera of systematic misspending of campaign funds was never filed; instead, prosecutors would write a 16-page memo explaining why they believed they could not arrest Rivera for anything.” [Miami Herald, 7/15/12]

Miami Herald: Case Against Rivera Was Dropped By Prosecutors Because Of Pressure From The Florida Department Of Law Enforcement. According to the Miami Herald, “Newly released e-mails and other records from the Rivera investigation show the increasing tension between the FDLE and the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office as the case dragged on through this past April, when prosecutors — under pressure from the FDLE to make a decision — finally dropped the high-profile case.” [Miami Herald, 7/15/12]

Rivera Rejected Florida Attorneys Offer Of A Plea Deal To Drop Criminal Chargers If Rivera Admitted Campaign Violation. According to the Miami Herald, “On Oct. 12, Arrojo e-mailed Rivera’s lawyer a proposal: If Rivera admitted to violations of state election laws, the prosecutors were willing to forgo criminal charges. ‘We are pretty much done with our review of this matter,’ Arrojo wrote. In his statement to The Herald, Rivera said he ‘summarily rejected’ the offer. ‘Knowing I didn’t do anything wrong, I told them I would see them in court,’ Rivera said in a follow-up phone interview. ‘I will never allow myself to be intimidated or extorted by anyone, including the state attorney.’” [Miami Herald, 7/15/12]

Florida Department Of Law Enforcement Investigation Was Halted After Prosecutor Offered Settlement To Rivera. According to the Miami Herald, “On March 21, an FDLE supervisor, Cindy Sanz, asked Arrojo for an update but received no response. Two weeks later, she wrote again to the prosecutor: ‘Since I have not heard from you, I will presume that no progress has been made,’ Sanz wrote. ‘As you and Ms. Rundle have already indicated that your office does not intend to pursue prosecution of Mr. Rivera, FDLE has now closed our investigation.’ Arrojo then urged the FDLE not to release any information to the press, arguing that the investigation was ‘still in the end stage,’ e-mail records show. But an FDLE lawyer said it was difficult to consider the case an active investigation, making the records inaccessible to the public, because ‘nothing is happening.’ On April 18, the FDLE lawyer informed Rundle’s office that the FDLE was releasing records of the investigation to reporters asking about the case. Rundle’s office formally closed the investigation that very day, releasing its 16-page memo explaining why no charges were filed. ‘It would greatly aid prosecutors in these types of inquiries and provide clearer guidance to candidates if the law was revised,’ Arrojo and Rosen wrote in wrapping up the 18-month probe. ‘We have been confronted with the fact that an elected official over a period of many years may essentially live off a combination of [political] contributions… while avoiding penal sanction.’” [Miami Herald, 7/15/12]

Rivera Investigated By Miami-Dade Prosecutors And Police For Campaign Contributions As A State Representative. According to the Miami Herald “Since his victory in the Nov. 2 election over Joe Garcia, Rivera has become the target of a criminal investigation by Miami-Dade prosecutors and police, which is focused on his personal and campaign finances while he was a state representative.” [Miami Herald, 1/6/11]

Miami-Dade Prosecutors Asked Florida Department Of Law Enforcement To Take Over Rivera Probe. According to the Miami Herald, “Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle has removed one of her top prosecution teams from the investigation of U.S. Rep. David Rivera and asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over as the lead agency in the politically sensitive probe…. Assistant State Attorney Joe Centorino, the chief public corruption prosecutor in Fernández Rundle’s office, will now take over as the lead prosecutor on the Rivera case. Centorino had already been working with FDLE on the Rivera probe, though focusing on different elements than Scruggs.” [Miami Herald, 1/19/11]

State Investigation Against Rivera Not Expected To Lead To Criminal Charges Due To Vague Laws, Statute Of Limitations. According to the Miami Herald “U.S. Rep. David Rivera will not face criminal charges following an 18-month investigation of his personal and campaign finances by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to sources close to the probe. Although records released late Monday show FDLE last year suspected Rivera of “possible criminal and ethical violations,” ranging from campaign fraud to falsifying financial disclosure forms, prosecutors have concluded that they cannot charge the Miami congressman with any crimes because of ambiguities in the state’s campaign finance laws and a shortened statute of limitations that barred prosecution for expenses more than two years old.” [Miami Herald, 4/17/12]

Set aside money for thank you funds

Miami-Dade Police And Prosecutors Investigated “Thank You” Funds. According to the Miami Herald, “After dropping out of a state Senate race last year to run for Congress, David Rivera set aside tens of thousands of dollars from his dormant Senate campaign account to say ‘thank you’’ to supporters of a race he never intended to finish. Rivera paid the money to a company called ACH Fundraising Strategies — a Miami-based business founded by the daughter of a longtime aide. He cut a $50,000 check to ACH on July 15, 2010 — the day before the firm was incorporated as a business. Those ‘thank you campaign’ dollars to ACH are now being scrutinized as part of an expanding criminal investigation of the Republican congressman’s personal and campaign accounts by Miami-Dade police and prosecutors, The Miami Herald has learned.” [Miami Herald, 1/16/11]

Used campaign cash to pay himself

Rivera Failed To Account For Thousands In Expenses Paid To Himself. According to the Associated Press “Freshman U.S. Rep. David Rivera, who is facing a state criminal investigation of his finances, paid himself nearly $60,000 in unexplained campaign reimbursements over the eight years he served in the state legislature, an Associated Press examination of his records shows. Serving as his own campaign treasurer, the Miami Republican didn’t report any details for more than a third of the roughly $160,000 in expenses for which he reimbursed himself, other than simply calling them campaign expenses, according to the records…. James Woodruff II, an election law expert at the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, said candidates are supposed to give some details of how they spent the money they are getting back simply listing ‘campaign expenses’ doesn’t cut it.” [Associated Press, 1/28/11]

Used Campaign Funds To Pay For Credit Cards, Mattress, Travel For His Girlfriend

Rivera Used Campaign Funds To Pay Credit Cards. According to the Miami Herald “Investigators found that Rivera maintained three different campaign accounts from 2004 to 2010, and used money from those accounts to reimburse payments on four credit cards he used.” [Miami Herald, 4/18/12]

Florida Investigators Believed Rivera Spent $65,000 Of Campaign Funds On Personal Expenses Including Travel For His Girlfriend. According to the Miami Herald “Investigators also pored over Rivera’s spending from the campaign accounts. In a July 2011 memo, FDLE investigators said they believed that Rivera spent as much as $65,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses — from pet care costs to dry cleaning, a dentist’s bill and “travel expenses for his girlfriend.” The memo does not name the girlfriend. ‘After a thorough analysis, FDLE identified a pattern of activity in which Mr. Rivera was utilizing funds collected during his political campaigns to defray personal expenses not related to campaign activity,’ the memo says.” [Miami Herald, 4/17/12]]

Rivera Was Own Campaign Treasurer, Back Dated Expenses. According to the Miami Herald “Rivera, who was his own campaign treasurer, back-dated expenses listed in campaign reports on several occasions in 2010, making it appear that expenses were paid several months earlier than they actually were, the FDLE said. For example, investigators said fundraiser Esther Nuhfer received $200,000 from Rivera’s state Senate campaign fund in the summer of 2010 — when Nuhfer was working on a separate congressional campaign for Rivera. In state campaign records, the payments were back-dated by as much as five months, as though they were paid before the congressional race began, records show…. In campaign records, Rivera also back-dated a $15,000 payment to Millennium for “campaign consulting,” records show. In fact, investigators found, Rivera made the payment to his mother’s company in three months after the campaign had ended.” [Miami Herald, 4/21/12]

Rivera Spent Campaign Money On Medical Bills, Mattress. According to the Miami Herald “Rivera used these campaign funds to pay off expenses on his personal credit cards, including travel expenses, dry cleaning, pet care, more than $1,500 in medical and dental bills and $508 at a mattress store, records show. Bills from Toys R Us, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster and movie theaters — Rivera is known to be a movie buff — were also reimbursed from the campaign account, the records show, as was $202 in charges from Nordstrom in Coral Gables on Christmas Eve 2009.” [Miami Herald, 4/21/12]

Rivera Charged Las Vegas, Broadway Shows As Campaign Expenses. According to the Miami Herald “Other expenses Rivera called ‘campaign related,’ the records show, included $105 for show tickets at a medieval-themed casino in Las Vegas, and $360 for tickets to an off-Broadway show in New York. The title: Perfect Crime.” [Miami Herald, 4/21/12]

Rivera Double Billed Tax Payers, Avoided Prosecution Due To Statute Of Limitations. According to the Miami Herald “For example, the FDLE found that Rivera, a Miami Republican, charged travel expenses to both his campaign accounts and his legislative office account — resulting in $29,500 in double-billing from 2006 to 2010, the records show. But prosecutors said they could not charge Rivera with felony theft, because state law says any charges based on false travel vouchers must only be misdemeanors — and must be prosecuted within two years of the offense.” [Miami Herald, 4/18/12]

Florida Authorities Investigated Rivera’s Relationship with Fundraiser, Esther Nuhfer

Relationship With Fundraising Consultant Was Investigated. According to the Miami Herald “Investigators also examined Rivera’s relationship with Nuhfer, a political fundraiser whose company received more than $870,000 from campaigns or committees with ties to Rivera — including $150,000 in ‘bonus’ money from a state Senate campaign that Rivera abandoned to run for Congress in 2010. Nuhfer also traveled with Rivera on fundraisers to New York, Washington, Las Vegas and other cities, the records show.” [Miami Herald, 4/21/12]

  • Miami New Times: Rivera Fundraiser May Be His Girlfriend. According to the Miami New Times “Nuhfer has a long, tight relationship with Rivera, who has called her a ‘good friend,’ a ‘fundraising consultant,’ and even a ‘travel coordinator,’ according to the Miami Herald. (Political blogger Joy Reid offers another label: girlfriend. This is bolstered by a photo where she appears to have her hand on his thigh at a Miami Dade College black-tie event.) Labels aside, everyone agrees that while Rivera (who’s not married) was a powerful budget chairman from 2008 to 2009, the busty lobbyist worked out of his office and roomed with his top aide.” [Miami New Times, 12/22/11]
  • Rivera Fundraiser Worked For Gingrich, Rubio. According to the Florida Independent “Some of the biggest and deep-pocketed Republican heavy-hitters opened their wallets Monday for Sen. Marco Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC, which pulled in an easy $200,000. Organizing the event: Rubio fundraiser Esther Nuhfer, whom we just learned is going to be Gingrich’s finance director.” [Florida Independent, 12/13/11]

Nuhfer Was Also Lobbyist In Tallahassee. According to the Miami Herald “Nuhfer was more than that. She also was a lobbyist in Tallahassee, where her connections to Rivera often sparked whispers and criticism from fellow lobbyists, political consultants and lawmakers in the gossipy state Capitol, where Rivera held the powerful post of budget chief in the state House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010. During the legislative session, Nuhfer was a constant presence in Rivera’s office: She often could be found sitting at or near his desk, using the telephone or typing on her laptop next to Rivera’s legislative aide, Alina Garcia, who was Nuhfer’s roommate in Tallahassee. Rivera and Nuhfer also traveled together outside the state, according to sources close to the criminal investigation.” [Miami Herald, 2/19/11]

  • Nuhfer Lobbied For Dog Track Tied To Rivera Ethics Investigation. According to the Miami Herald “Rivera’s deal with the dog track — now called Magic City Casino — is one of the transactions now under investigation by the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Rivera has denied any wrongdoing, though he has acknowledged receiving $132,000 in undisclosed loans from Millennium — money Rivera says he repaid before taking his congressional seat. Under the contract with Flagler, Rivera assumed the role of “Top Leader of Chain of Command of All Campaign Consultants and Campaign Activities.” Among the consultants hired was Nuhfer, who worked closely with Rivera, said consultant Brian May, who also worked on the campaign. Nuhfer’s firm was among the highest-paid on the slots campaign, earning more than $110,000 in fees from a political committee financed by the gaming industry, records show.” [Miami Herald, 2/19/11]
  • Rivera Fundraiser Lobbied For U.S. Sugar, HCA Healthcare. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Nocco’s wife, Bridget Gregory Nocco, is a political fundraiser who also lobbies on behalf of major corporations such as U.S. Sugar and HCA Healthcare. For her fundraising work during last fall’s election, she earned $160,000 from the Republican Party of Florida. She was initially on Bill McCollum’s finance team for his gubernatorial bid before switching to the Scott campaign after he won the GOP primary. Bridget Nocco also is a friend of and former adviser to U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Republican from Miami. A political committee linked with Rivera paid her $65,000 over 2 1/2 years for her work as a fundraiser.” [Tampa Bay Times, 4/27/11]

Rivera Paid Aid Over $800,000 Since 2006. According to the Miami Herald “Before launching his bid for Congress last year, David Rivera embarked on a record-breaking campaign for the state Senate, amassing more than $1 million in donations some eight months before Election Day. Rivera paid $250,000 of that money to his fundraiser and longtime ally, Esther Nuhfer — including $150,000 in “bonus” money, records show — all for a political campaign that Rivera never finished.Rivera dropped that state Senate campaign early to run for Congress…. Since 2006, Nuhfer’s consulting firm has received at least $817,000 in fees from Rivera’s political campaigns, or from political committees tied to the Republican congressman and former state lawmaker, state and federal campaign records show.” [Miami Herald, 2/19/11]

Nuhfer Contradicted Rivera Explanation Of Fees. According to the Miami Herald “Rivera said the bonuses paid to Nuhfer were ‘contractually obligated’ because she met her fundraising goal. But in an interview with FDLE agents, Nuhfer said she did not have an ‘official contract’ with Rivera’s campaign; she said Rivera agreed to pay her up to 15 percent of any money she helped raise, plus a consulting fee for other services, such as organizing advertising, the records show.” [Miami Herald, 4/21/12]

Miami-Dade County Republican Party Paid Nuhfer $150,000

Miami-Dade Republican Party Paid Rivera Ally $150,000; Can’t Explain Expense. According to the St. Petersburg Times Blog “In the final weeks before Election Day last fall, the Miami-Dade Republican Party paid $150,000 to a political consultant with close ties to the party’s then-chairman, U.S. Rep. David Rivera. But party officials cannot explain exactly what they got for the money. The party made the payments in October and November to the firm of consultant Esther Nuhfer without any written contract, and the party does not have any detailed invoices of the expenses.” [St. Petersburg Times Blog, 2/5/11]

  • Expenditure Was County Party’s Largest In Six Years. According to the Miami Herald “The party made the payments in October and November to the firm of consultant Esther Nuhfer without any written contract, and the party does not have any detailed invoices of the expenses — the party’s largest expenses in at least six years, records show. ‘I haven’t seen detailed records like that,’ said Jose Alcaraz Jr., the party’s treasurer.” [Miami Herald, 2/6/11]
  • $100,000 Payment Was For $34,500 Media Buy. According to the Miami Herald “According to the party’s campaign reports, at least $100,000 of the money paid to Nuhfer’s firm was earmarked for ‘media’ consulting. The party’s executive director, J.C. Hernandez, said that money was supposed to pay for air time on two Spanish-language radio stations in the weeks leading up to the election. But the Miami-Dade GOP’s air time on WAQI-710 AM, known as Radio Mambí, and its sister station, WQBA-1140 AM, cost just $34,500, records show. The Miami Herald surveyed five other Spanish language stations and found no other advertising purchased by the party. Asked if he expected Communication Solutions to spend more than $34,500 on radio time, Hernandez said: ‘Absolutely, yeah.’” [Miami Herald, 2/6/11]
  • Miami-Dade Republican Party Left Without Funds Following Rivera’s Tenure. According to the Miami Herald “Fresen said the party spent almost all of its money electing Republicans last year. The GOP’s state and federal accounts were essentially down to zero when Fresen took over the reins in December from the former party chairman, U.S. Rep. David Rivera. (The party’s federal account ended the month of May with a balance of $12.66.)… Vasquez said the party’s financial woes should not be blamed solely on Fresen, because the committee spent ‘thousands and thousands of dollars’ on campaign cell phones and consultants last year leading up the GOP’s wildly successful Election Day in November.” [Miami Herald, 6/23/11]

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