Friday, October 22, 2010

David Rivera's 99 Problems

William Barzee, a supporter of Democratic Congressional candidate Joe Garcia has filed an ethics complaint against Republican David Rivera. The complaint contends Rivera falsely claimed on his financial disclosure forms that he worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID has no record of Rivera ever working for the organization.

The ethics complaint

4. Florida law requires Rivera, as a candidate for public office, to provide full, public disclosure of his financial interests, including identification of each separate source and amount of income which exceeds $1,000. See Fla. Const., Art. II, Section 8; Fla. Stat. §§ 99.061,112.3144, 112.3145. A candidate who violates Florida financial disclosure requirements is subject to disqualification from being on the ballot, pursuant to the express provision of Fla. Stat. § 112.317. See also Final Order, Kevin Ambler v. Elections Canvassing Commission of the State of Florida, et al., Case No. 2010-CA-3014 (Fla. 2d Jud. Cir., Oct. 15, 2010) (ordering removal of candidate from ballot based on failure to substantially comply with financial disclosure requirements).

5. Rivera, in sworn financial disclosure forms filed in the years 2003-2009 with the Florida Commission on Ethics, identified the U.S. Agency for International Development (“USAID”), a federal agency that offers aid to developing countries, as a “major source” of income. See Ex. 1 (attached hereto) (Rivera’s financial disclosure forms). Rivera further set forth in those forms that he worked for USAID through Interamerican Government Relations, a Puerto Rican corporation, and Millenium Marketing, a separate business entity, performing “international development consulting.” And, for the past four years, Rivera listed USAID as his only source of income apart from his legislative salary. State ethics rules require lawmakers to publicly disclose any “customer, client or other source of income” that provides more than 10 percent of the total income of the lawmaker’s private business, a requirement designed to alert the legislature and public to potential conflicts of interest.

6. Contrary to Rivera’s sworn filings, however, USAID has no record of ever hiring Rivera or his corporation, as confirmed by USAID Press Officer Annette Aulton. Moreover, since 2003, Rivera has not disclosed his earnings from consulting work, contrary to Florida state ethics rules requiring such reporting by legislators.

7. The Florida Constitution, Article 2, Section 8, and Florida Statutes §§ 99.061, 112.3144, and 112.3145, require the truthful filing of financial disclosure forms as prerequisite for eligibility to be elected to office. As has become clear in the statements and admissions made by Rivera over the course of the past four weeks—and most recently with deficiencies that Rivera acknowledged in his amendment of all financial disclosures forms on October 15, 2010, removing, while failing to expressly explain the basis for removal, of all prior information provided as to major private sources of income—Rivera has substantially failed to comply with these fundamental constitutional and statutory requirements.

It is questionable if the ethics complaint would disqualify Rivera before the general election. Rivera also can appeal if he loses in court. If Rivera is disqualified the local party leaders of Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Collier counties would chose a replacement candidate.

Politically, the ethics complaint will draw attention to Rivera falsely stating he was paid for consulting work to USAID. Rivera took USAID off of his financial disclosure forms. Rivera's campaign lashed out at Garcia, but they are clearly scared. No other logical reason can explain Team Rivera canceling their Univision debate with Garcia.

Rivera could find himself in the same situation as State Senate candidate Jim Norman. The latter had to testify and admit Republican contributor Ralph Hughes put down $500,000 for a house for Norman and his wife. Norman has been taken off the ballot and is being investigated by the FBI. Rivera is screwed if he has to testify in court.

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