BREAKING UPDATE (11:00 p.m. EST): FBI, Miami-Dade police target Democratic primary candidate with possible ties to Congressman David Rivera
Federal agents are investigating the finances of a little known candidate and potential connections to U.S. Rep. David Rivera.As I noted earlier today, Rivera is in deep trouble this time.
The FBI and Miami-Dade police have opened separate criminal investigations into the campaign of a Democratic congressional candidate who, vendors say, was aided by GOP Rep. David Rivera.
Federal agents gathered campaign records, invoices and began interviewing employees at two mail and data companies used by Democrat Justin Lamar Sternad’s primary campaign. Sternad spent about $43,000 in unreported cash and checks on mail services, a witness told The Herald and authorities. Some of the money was stuffed in envelopes bulging with $100 bills.
Federal law required Sternad to quickly report any contributions — including loans —just before the Aug. 14 primary, which he lost to Democrat Joe Garcia, a longtime Rivera rival who Sternad bashed in one of his 11 mailers.
Rivera, investigators suspect, was behind the sophisticated mail campaign run by Sternad, who was an unknown political newcomer and hotel night auditor.
Today's Miami Herald is reporting that, according to a number of vendors involved in the effort, Florida Republican congressman David Rivera secretly funded a primary challenge against his "political nemesis," Democrat Joe Garcia who is challenging Rivera for the seat. If true, this is a serious violation of federal law that is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Fueled with $43,000 in secret money, Republican Rep. David Rivera helped run a shadow campaign that might have broken federal laws in last week’s Democratic primary against his political nemesis Joe Garcia, according to campaign sources and finance records.And, no, Sternad didn't seem to have the resources to be a self-funding candidate, according to the Herald:
As part of the effort, a political unknown named Justin Lamar Sternad campaigned against Garcia by running a sophisticated mail campaign that Rivera helped orchestrate and fund, campaign vendors said.
Among the revelations: The mailers were often paid in envelopes stuffed with crisp hundred-dollar bills.
Sternad’s wife is unemployed, they have small investments and they’re supporting five kids, according to his campaign records.Rivera, a close ally of Marco Rubio, denies any involvement in the campaign, though his denials look like they won't hold up:
Sternad, who earned $30,000 as a hotel worker last year, loaned himself nearly $11,000 for his campaign. All but $822 was spent on the state fee to qualify for office. The remainder was spent for signage, bank fees or his cell phone bill.
Sternad — the treasurer for his own campaign — never filed a report showing he loaned himself any additional money. So it’s unclear where the nearly $43,000 for the mailers came from.
Interviews with campaign sources, invoices, campaign records and other documents show that Rivera personally and frequently called Rapid Mail about Sternad’s mailers. During one call, Rivera directed an employee to walk outside, check the office mailbox for an envelope containing payment for one mailer., the sources said.It appears that there is a good chance that Rep. Rivera may be in some very serious trouble. Not sure if this seat was viewed as a potential Dem pick-up (I'm not from Florida so I'm not familiar with the district), but it may be a certainty if this story plays out based on the facts presented in today's Herald.
The envelope was stuffed with cash — $7,800.
Last week, Borrero told The Herald that the Sternad campaign had paid cash for six of the cash mailers, which cost between $4,000 and $6,000 each. He said he was surprised by the amount of cash, which he sometimes may see from private clients and not usually campaigns.
The Republican Party in Florida has a long and storied history of corruption, and Rivera looks like he may soon be spending some time in the big house.