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Rubio and Rivera: Birds of a Feather

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Tallahassee, FL —One of the investigations into GOP Congressman David Rivera might be over, but the ugly details of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's report are starting to surface. Now public, the investigation -- as detailed by the Miami Herald -- is providing an in-depth look at the messy financial details behind the congressman's corrupt practices while in the Florida Legislature and highlighting how Rivera lived lavishly off campaign contributions despite never having a full time job or making over $28,000. The pattern of financial manipulation is shockingly similar to that of Rivera's longtime pal and former roommate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio who famously abused the Republican Party of Florida's credit cards for his personal use.

"This new report reveals corrupt politicians David Rivera and Marco Rubio have a lot more in common than just being long-time friends and roommates -- they both used political funds to fuel their personal expenses and lavish lifestyles," said Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux. "With Rubio's name floated as a possible GOP Vice Presidential contender, you can bet his long standing ties to David Rivera -- coupled with his own sordid financial history — is making the Rubio camp nervous." 

An examination of the financial practices of both the Congressman and Senator reveal several shocking similarities: both double-billed the taxpayers for travel, both used campaign contributions to fund their personal expenses,  and both have been (or are) under investigation by federal authorities. The similarities are especially troublesome in light of the longtime,  close collaboration between the two Florida Republicans.  Rubio has described Rivera as a close friend, both worked together in the Florida Legislature, and the two lawmakers owned a house together in Tallahassee (which they failed to make payments on).

RUBIO AND RIVERA BOTH DOUBLE BILLED TAXPAYERS FOR TRAVEL

Congressman Rivera double-billed taxpayers of Florida for travel expenses. Rivera "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." [Miami Herald, 4/18/2012

Like Congressman Rivera, Senator Marco Rubio double-billed taxpayers. Rubio "acknowledged in February that he double-billed state taxpayers and the party for several plane flights from South Florida to Tallahassee." [Times/Herald, 4/21/10]

RUBIO AND RIVERA BOTH PAID FOR PERSONAL EXPENSES THROUGH CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

Alleged personal expenses paid for by Rivera through campaign contributions include:

  • Travel expenses, including $3,100 in plane tickets for his then girlfriend;
  • Dry cleaning;
  • Pet care;
  • More than $1,500 in medical and dental bills;
  • $508 at a mattress store;
  • Toys R Us, Borders; 
  • Barnes & Nobles;
  • Blockbuster and movie theaters;
  • Nordstroms; 
  • Las Vegas casino tickets and off-broadway theater in New York.

SOURCE: [Miami Herald, 4/21/2012]

Alleged personal expenses paid for by Rubio through campaign contributions include:

  • 4,000 to $5,000 for a new kitchen floor — when asked about the charge, Rubio "didn't deny Ingram's contention about the remodeling expenses…[and] repeated his refusal to release all of the billing records for his party credit card" 
  • $2,976 for him to rent a car in Miami for five weeks 
  • $25.76 from Everglades Lumber for "supplies."
  • $53.49 at Winn-Dixie in Miami for "food."
  • $68.33 at Happy Wine in Miami for "beverages'' and "meal."
  • $765 spent on Apple's online store
  • $412 at All Fusion Electronics, a music equipment store in Miami, for "supplies."
  • Three payments to a Tallahassee property management group, which Rubio described as personal, were paid by the party, totaling $1,024
  • 6 plane tickets 
  • $181 at the Natural History Museum in New York 
  • $1,348 on flowers
  • $1,000 at Braman Honda to repair van damage incurred at what he said was a party function.  
  • $10.50 for a movie ticket 
  • $241 for a flight to Las Vegas after the death of a relative. 

SOURCE: [Tampa Tribune, 9/23/10; Times/Herald, 2/25/10; Times/Herald, 4/11/10; Times/Herald, 2/27/10]

RUBIO AND RIVERA BOTH MANIPULATED THEIR FINANCES TO FUND THEIR LAVISH LIFESTYLES

Congressman Rivera used an un-regulated slush fund so he could "live off campaign contributions for almost a decade" --  enjoying a lavish lifestyle despite never earning more than $28,000 a year. According to the a report released last week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, Rivera maintained an unregulated slush fund -- " at least $175,000 in undisclosed donations for a perpetual campaign as a Miami-Dade committeeman with the state Republican Party — money Rivera frequently used to pay for meals and travel, including plane tickets for his then-girlfriend."  Rivera "'essentially live(ed) off'" campaign contributions for almost a decade while serving as a part-time state lawmaker, paying mortgages on four different properties and jetting around the globe though he never held a full-time job or earned more than $28,000 a year" [Miami Herald, 4/21/2012]

Details about Congressman Rivera's  financial manipulations, double-billing, slush funds and corruption have come to light. The FDLE report shows that "Rivera used back-dated campaign records, a web of bank accounts and undisclosed loans, a batch of credit cards and misleading disclosure forms to disguise his finances from the public eye during much of his eight-year tenure in the Florida Legislature." Rivera also failed to disclose thousands of dollars funneled to him through his godmother's company during a gambling venture, and lied about working for the USAID. [Miami Herald, 4/21/2012; see also: Miami Herald, 4/18/2012 and TPM, 4/19/2012

Like Congressman Rivera, Senator Marco Rubio also used campaign contributions to fund his lavish personal lifestyle. From 2005 to 2008, Rubio was in possession of a Republican Party of Florida credit card, and "charged grocery bills, repairs to the family minivan and purchases from a wine store less than a mile from his West Miami home to the Republican Party of Florida while he was speaker of the Florida House." [Times/Herald, 2/25/10]

BOTH RUBIO AND RIVERA HAVE BEEN OR ARE UNDER FEDERAL INVESTIGATION:

Congressman Rivera Continues to Be Under Investigation by FBI and IRS. "Rivera…remains under investigation by the FBI and IRS." [4/21/2012]

Like Congressman Rivera, Senator Marco Rubio has been under investigation by federal authorities. "The IRS opened the so-called 'primary' investigation into Rubio, the leading Republican candidate for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat." [Times/Herald, 4/21/10]

RUBIO AND RIVERA ARE FRIENDS, MAINTAIN A PERSONAL CONNECTION, AND RUBIO CONTINUES TO DEFEND RIVERA

Despite Rivera's ongoing scandals, Rubio continues to stand by David Rivera. "Rubio is giving a full-throated endorsement to Rivera, raising money for him and defending a man who served with him in the trenches of Florida politics dating back to when they were young volunteers on Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s first House campaign in 1992…Rubio said he would be willing to stump with Rivera ahead of a tough fall campaign, a boon for Rivera, who has struggled to raise money and win broad backing within the Washington GOP ranks amid the cloud of investigations." [Politico, "David Rivera friendship risky for Marco Rubio," 4/9/12]

Rivera and Rubio owned a house together — which they failed to make payments on. "“Beyond just politics, the two men are close on a personal level as well, and their finances have become intertwined in real estate. In 2005, they bought a 1,200-square-foot single-family house in Tallahassee, thinking they would serve in Florida for years and could use the property as their home base…In 2010, a problem with their payments led the bank to file an intent to foreclose on their property, but that was resolved when Rubio handed over $9,525 to cover late payments." [Politico, 4/9/12]

Rivera Hired Rubio On To Bob Dole’s 1996 Presidential Campaign, Then Rivera Helped Rubio Campaign For West Miami City Commissioner. “When Rivera was running the Florida operations of Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign, he hired Rubio right out of University of Miami's law school. In 1997, Rivera helped Rubio's campaign for West Miami city commissioner.” [Politico.com, 4/9/12]    

As Florida’s House Speaker, Rubio Selected Rivera As His Chairman Of The Rules Committee To Help Move Legislation On The Floor. “When the two later served for six years together in the state House, Rubio became speaker and he selected Rivera as chairman of the Rules Committee, meaning the two worked in tandem to move legislation on the floor.” [Politico.com, 4/9/12]

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