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Yesterday's Miami Herald has a story that may very well have just handed us a congressional seat with a bow on it.  For those who missed it, FL-26's ethically-challenged Republican Congressman, David Rivera, is under fire for funneling at least $43,000 to a no-name Democrat in the district's Democratic primary.  Now, according to sources close to the investigation, that candidate, Justin Sternad, has told the FBI that Rivera was indeed the man behind his campaign in an effort to keep Rivera from facing a rematch against his 2010 opponent, Joe Garcia.  This was already mentioned in the DKE Live Digest, but the ramifications are so big that a separate diary is warranted.

Sternad, 35, also told authorities that his campaign manager, Ana Sol Alliegro, acted as the conduit between the campaign and Rivera, who allegedly steered unreported cash to the Democrat’s campaign, according to sources familiar with the investigation and records shared with The Herald.

Sternad said Alliegro referred to the congressman by his initials, “D.R.,” and called him by the nickname, “The Gangster.”

That would be the same self-described "conservative bad girl" Ana Alliegro who apparently skipped town after promising to talk to the FBI.  She's been incommunicado ever since--even her lawyer hasn't heard from her.

Sternad had wondered who the person was who allowed him to not only run a sophisticated direct-mail campaign and pay numerous vendors in cash even though he only claimed to have raised $11,400.  After finding numerous pictures of Rivera and Alliegro on Facebook and Twitter, Sternad figured out that "D. R." was Rivera.  He has since amended his financial records to show he loaned himself $53,000 more than he originally reported to the FEC--including an undisclosed $10,000 deposit into his campaign account.  He believes most of it came from Rivera.

Earlier, two campaign vendors told the Herald that Rivera fronted Sternad the money to pay them.  One of them, John Borrero, says that when the Herald first reported the shenanigans, Alliegro stormed into his warehouse and demanded that Borerro destroy all records related to Sternad.  Borerro instead turned everything over to local and federal investigators.

Sternad knew that all this extra money would raise serious questions, given his modest finances.  However, he went along because Rivera apparently promised him a better job.  Instead, he may be staring down the barrel of charges that he filed false paperwork and knowingly accepted laundered money.

The Rivera campaign's response is, in so many words, "Na-na-na, can't hear you!"

“We will respond when these so-called ‘sources’ are willing to go on the record,” said attorney Michael R. Band, who represents Rivera. “We are not going to respond to unfounded rumors and innuendo. My client is in the middle of an election and it’s unfair for us to be shadow-boxing with unnamed sources.”
News flash--would you seriously think a paper would run something this explosive unless there really was something to it?

This couldn't possibly look worse for Rivera.  Unless he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, his crude attempt to keep Garcia off the ballot might actually end up handing Garcia a seat on a silver platter.  The only thing that I don't get is why the Dems aren't hammering the Repubs for not pushing Rivera out the door.  After all, we're talking about a guy who not only propped up a false flag candidate, but tried to sabotage the other party's primary to do it.  About the only thing I can think of is that the Dems' internal polling shows Rivera getting boat-raced.

7:37 PM PT: Since this made the rec list, send Garcia some love at ActBlue.

Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 7:20 AM PT: Since this is still on the rec list this morning, I thought I'd pass on something David Nir dug up on this morning's live digest.  Michael Putney of Miami ABC affiliate WPLG went to Sternad's house to ask some questions--only to get doused with water by his wife.

Originally posted to Christian Dem in NC on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Florida.

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