Rep. David Rivera's fundraising down in wake of ethics, criminal probes

Multiple criminal investigations have slammed the brakes on Rep. David Rivera’s (R-Fla.) fundraising efforts as members of the House Republican leadership have distanced themselves from the embattled freshman.

The FBI, IRS, Miami-Dade police public corruption unit, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement are all investigating Rivera over allegations that he abused his former seat in Florida’s state House of Representatives for personal financial gain, and repeatedly lied on financial disclosure forms.

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Rivera’s office has denied any wrongdoing and a spokesperson for the Rivera for Congress campaign told The Hill the lawmaker has no concerns over his ability to raise money for the 2012 election and that he is planning to begin actively fundraising next year when Florida finalizes its redistricting.

“Congressman Rivera welcomes any and all public scrutiny from any and all sources, none of which has interfered with his ability to do his job as a Member of Congress or a candidate for re-election,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

“Once the reapportionment process has concluded and the campaign begins in earnest next year, Congressman Rivera will have more than sufficient resources to get his message of fiscal responsibility and job creation to the voters. Until then, as he has done tirelessly the last nine months, Congressman Rivera will remain focused on doing the job his constituents elected him to do, promoting policies to create jobs and improve the economy.”

But the allegations have weighed Rivera down, causing him to raise a mere fraction of what his freshman colleagues have so far for the 2012 election cycle, as his fundraising numbers have shrunk by nearly half since the first quarter of the year.

Rivera raked in nearly $2 million for his successful 2010 campaign, in the face of stiff Democratic opposition. But this year he has brought in about $110,000 so far.

At least 21 Republican lawmakers gave to Rivera’s campaign in the last election cycle, including House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), who gave $2,000, and a political action committee associated with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), which gave $5,000.

But in the first six months of the 2012 campaign fundraising cycle, Rivera has received the support of only one Republican on Capitol Hill, Rep. Jeff Denham (Calif). Denham, who is a classmate of Rivera’s, was cleared on Tuesday by the Federal Elections Commission, which deadlocked on three allegations against Denham and dismissed five others regarding an alleged violation of campaign finance laws.

While Boehner has given $36,000 to nine vulnerable freshman lawmakers so far this year, including Florida Rep. Allen West (R), he has steered clear of Rivera.

Reporters pressed Boehner early this year on the investigations into Rivera and what they meant for a House that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pledged to run with a “zero tolerance” policy toward ethics violations.

“We’re waiting to see how this plays out,” Boehner said, deferring to the ongoing criminal probes. The secretive House Ethics Committee has not announced any probe into Rivera.

State and national Democratic parties have been quick to use the federal and local criminal probes in their campaign against Rivera. 

“With multiple investigations at the state and federal level, Congressman Rivera has earned the title of ‘most corrupt freshman,’” Adam Hodge, a spokesman with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote in an email.

“Nobody wants to be caught with Rivera’s ethical stench on them, and that’s why you’ve seen his fundraising evaporate.”

The Florida Democratic Party recently issued “Wanted” posters with Rivera’s face on them. The posters remind voters that Cantor snubbed Rivera twice this year at appearances in Florida. 

In February, Cantor told a local Miami CBS affiliate, after not inviting Rivera to a Miami fundraiser, that he was “very concerned” about the Rivera investigation.

Also this year, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) left Rivera off an invitation for Florida GOP lawmakers — a move that the NRCC later said was an oversight, and not done purposely.

Rivera was included on this year’s “Most Corrupt” list, released this month by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is scheduled to host a fundraiser Wednesday in Florida with Rivera’s Democratic challenger, state Rep. Luis Garcia.