Former Florida congressman fined $456K for campaign scheme

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Former Rep. David Rivera, a Florida Republican who has been roiled by scandal and lawsuits over the past decade, on Tuesday was ordered to pay a fine of $456,000 to the Federal Election Commission.

The FEC alleged in a civil lawsuit that Rivera secretly carried out a scheme during a 2012 congressional primary to fund the campaign of Democratic candidate Justin Lamar Sternad in an effort to weaken the campaign of opponent Joe Garcia.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted Rivera’s move to dismiss the FEC’s initial complaint against him in 2017, citing a Utah court ruling that the FEC had overstepped. The agency filed an amended complaint in 2019, which Rivera again tried to have dismissed, but this time the court sided with the FEC and the lawsuit moved forward.

The FEC accused Rivera in the complaint of making approximately $55,000 in campaign contributions in the name of another. Rivera has continued to deny any wrongdoing.

The court on Tuesday granted the FEC’s motion for summary judgment, stating in an order that “the record evidence quite obviously paints a picture showing that Rivera engaged in a scheme to unlawfully fund the Sternad campaign.”

“And Rivera’s opposition brief fails to rebut or even address much of that evidence,” the order reads.

The FEC sought a $456,000 civil penalty, which the court granted.

This wasn’t the first time that Rivera, who represented Florida’s 25th Congressional District from January 2011 to January 2013, came under legal scrutiny. He was also under federal investigation in 2011 for his involvement in a secret consulting contract that a casino cut with a marketing company listed in his mother’s name, but the case went nowhere.

In another instance, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office had been preparing to charge Rivera in a 52-count indictment alleging theft, money laundering and racketeering stemming from his use of public money and cash contributed to committees he used for political purposes — before the prosecutor’s office was persuaded by Rivera’s attorneys to drop the effort.

Rivera did lose a court battle in 2016 concerning his finances as a state legislator, for which he was to be fined $58,000. However, he didn’t have to pay since he was no longer a member of the Florida House, which would have needed to enforce the fine.

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