Former Congressman David Rivera has been publicly given a title he was long believed to possess: unindicted co-conspirator. A federal prosecutor finally named him in open court on Tuesday after his friend, Ana Alliegro, pled guilty to campaign finance violations.
Rivera is a Cuban-American from South Florida who served one term in Congress from 2011-2013. He’s since been trying to win back his old seat, and while he will still be on the Republican primary ballot next week, he’s not expected to win. After all, voters in South Florida do have some standards, and Rivera has long since burned all his political bridges.
Even Marco Rubio, who was one of Rivera’s closest friends in the state legislature and stood by him in the past, has distanced himself from the embattled politician. Rick Wilson, a top Florida GOP political consultant, describes Rivera as “a wily character ... [who has] run out of tricks.”
Rivera has faced criminal scrutiny almost since he was first elected to Washington over allegations of campaign finance irregularities as well as over an alleged $500,000 payment from a dog track. But what might finally take the slippery South Floridian down is his involvement in a bizarre scheme to back a candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary for his seat.
In an attempt to weaken Democrat Joe Garcia, who eventually defeated Rivera in the general election, the Republican congressman recruited Justin Lamar Sternad to run against Garcia in the primary and funded Sternad’s campaign. Throughout the campaign, Sternad, a political unknown, repeatedly attacked Garcia in mail pieces, which were funded by roughly $82,000 in illegal campaign contributions.
Rivera never dealt with Sternad directly. Instead, Alliegro ran the Sternad campaign. When she first came under investigation, she fled to Nicaragua, where she was arrested in March. And while Alliegro was on the lam in Central America, Rivera reportedly visited her several times.
Now that Alliegro has pled guilty, the expectation is that Rivera will not be referred to as “unindicted” for much longer. In the meantime, to quote the Jimmy Buffett song, the Congressman who lost his 2012 bid to represent Key West on Capitol Hill is staying “one step ahead of the jailer.”