Rivera drops claim he worked for USAID

By Scott Hiaasen and Patricia Mazzei

From The Miami Herald

MIAMI — Republican congressional candidate David Rivera has amended his state financial disclosure forms to erase any mention of consulting work for the U.S. Agency for International Development — days after USAID officials said they had no records showing Rivera worked for the agency.

Rivera’s attorney, Richard Coates, told the Florida Commission on Ethics in an Oct. 15 letter that Rivera was “not required” to disclose any additional income from the lawmaker’s consulting work from 2003 to 2009.

In his original disclosure forms, Rivera, a four-term state representative from Miami, said he worked as an “international development consultant” for USAID for seven years, through a company called Interamerican Government Relations, which Rivera founded in Puerto Rico. But USAID officials told the Miami Herald that they had no record of Rivera or his company.

Rivera first told the newspaper that he won USAID contracts through competitive bidding. After learning that USAID had no record of his company, Rivera then said he worked as a subcontractor to other USAID vendors. But Rivera would not disclose the names of the contractors who hired him, saying he had promised them confidentiality.

Rivera is running for Congress against Democrat Joe Garcia for the 25th Congressional District seat, which includes Miami-Dade and Collier counties.

Rivera amended his disclosure forms “for the sole purpose of further clarifying the information previously reported,” Coates told the Ethics Commission. The amendments were filed “without any admission” that Rivera’s original disclosures were inaccurate, the attorney said.

“The original forms included information that did not reach the state criteria for reporting and was included in an abundance of caution,” Rivera spokeswoman Leslie Veiga wrote in an e-mail.

A Democratic donor has filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics accusing Rivera of hiding his income in disclosure forms.

”So where is the money coming from? And why is David Rivera hiding the true source of his income?” Miami attorney William Barzee wrote in the complaint he filed Thursday. Barzee also wrote a letter to the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami, urging a criminal investigation.

Under the state’s disclosure rules, lawmakers are required to report the sources of any income exceeding $1,000.

In addition, lawmakers must list the names of any clients contributing more than 10 percent to their private businesses.

In his original disclosure forms, Rivera detailed no additional sources of income beyond his $30,000 salary as a state representative from 2004 to 2009, records show. For those years, Rivera also listed USAID as the sole client of his consulting company.

The amended forms also omit any references to Millennium Marketing, another firm through which Rivera said he worked from 2003 to 2005.

In 2006, Rivera paid Millennium $30,000 to work on his political campaign. Rivera’s mother is now an officer in the company, records show.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Barzee has donated more than $45,000 to Democratic candidates over the years — including $3,000 he gave to Garcia this year. Barzee made a prior complaint last month to the Federal Elections Commission, accusing Rivera’s campaign of working in coordination with an independent political committee.

In an interview with a Naples radio station Friday, Rivera said he disclosed even more financial information than the law required.

Since 2003, however, Rivera has never detailed how much money he made from his private consulting work — though state ethics rules require lawmakers to disclose income over $1,000.

In filing his financial disclosure forms, Rivera “complied with all Florida laws and regulations, and we are confident that this complaint will be proven unfounded,” Veiga said.