The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office continues its unbroken streak of disclosing investigations of crooked politicians after it’s too late for voters to act on the information. This time: David Rivera, second most embarrassing Florida congressman-elect (after Allen West)… BFF of El Unico, Marco Rubio … pretend consultant to USAID (whom they’ve never heard of) and international man of mystery. Turns out, he earned some of his secret income shaking down dog tracks.
According to the Miami Herald, the state attorney is investigating more than $500,000 in payments to a company owned by Rivera’s godmother, which served as a “consultant” to a Rivera-led effort to get voters to approve gambling at Miami-Dade parimutuels (dog tracks, horse tracks and Miami Jai Alai) in 2008. Full disclosure, I worked against the effort that year as an informal consultant to the opposition, in a strange collaboration with animal rights activists and Christian conservatives. Here’s the story:
The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office is investigating more than $500,000 in secret payments from the owners of the Flagler Dog Track to a company tied to Congressman-elect David Rivera, The Miami Herald has learned.
Most of the money was paid in early 2008, weeks after Rivera — then a member of the Florida House of Representatives — helped run a political campaign backed by the dog track to win voter approval for Las Vegas-style slot machines at parimutuel venues in Miami-Dade County.
The dog track — now called the Magic City Casino — made three payments totaling $510,000 to Millennium Marketing, a company currently co-managed by Rivera’s 70-year-old mother. Investigators are still trying to determine if Rivera himself received any of the money, or if anything about the transaction was illegal, according to sources close to the inquiry.
Rivera, a Miami Republican elected to Congress on Nov. 2, has previously denied working for the dog track, though he played a public role in supporting the pro-slots referendum campaign. Rivera never reported receiving any money from Flagler during his eight-year tenure in the Legislature.
Rivera, who is scheduled to be sworn in as a member of Congress on Jan. 5, declined to be interviewed for this article, but he released a statement saying that he never received any money from the dog track or from Millennium.
In the statement, Rivera said he was “designated by Millennium” to work on the slots campaign after the firm was hired by Flagler, and added he has not been contacted by investigators. At the time the contract was signed, Millennium’s sole corporate officer was Rivera’s godmother, Ileana Medina.
But Roberto Martinez, an attorney for the dog track, said it was Rivera who first approached the track owners in 2006 asking to manage the slots campaign, and it was Rivera who suggested that the contract go through Millennium, rather than to Rivera directly. Flagler’s contract with Millennium was signed by both Rivera and Medina.
Flagler’s owners “wanted to make sure they retained David’s personal services,” Martinez said. Flagler’s owners never dealt with Medina or Rivera’s mother, Daisy Magarino, who was named a corporate officer of Millennium days after the Flagler contract expired.
In a later statement to The Herald, Rivera confirmed that he suggested the contract with Millennium after Flagler’s owners “expressed interest” in pursuing the referendum.
In October, while campaigning for Congress, Rivera told The Herald he only “helped” with the slots vote, and denied having a management role in the parimutuel campaign or receiving any payment.
But under the October 2006 agreement with Flagler, Rivera was described as the “strategic director” of the pro-slots campaign, and its “Top Leader of Chain of Command of All Campaign Consultants and Campaign Activities,” according to the contract, which was reviewed by The Miami Herald.
Martinez said Flagler did nothing wrong, and the company’s owners are cooperating with the investigation.
Rivera “was very good at what he did, at directing the political campaign. He worked very hard,” Martinez said. “Our clients haven’t done anything wrong. They have nothing to hide.”
But in an interview with The Herald earlier this year, a Flagler official denied any contract with Rivera. Flagler’s vice president, Isadore Havenick, told the newspaper: “He gave us advice, but he was never hired by us.”
Martinez said Havenick’s statement is not inconsistent, because the payments from the company went to Millennium, not to Rivera directly. “We don’t know where the money went,” Martinez said. …
The problem for Rivera is that the payments were never disclosed, even though in the contract with Flagler he pledged to spend “75 percent of his time” lobbying for slots, and “neutralizing” opposition (including from the aforementioned animal rights groups, religious groups, members of the Hispanic community including the then mayor of Hialeah, Julio Robaina, and even his buddy Marco and Marco’s political godfather, Jeb Bush.)
Flagler payed the money directly to Millennium, rather than putting the money through the committee the dog track had formed with another track and Miami Jai Alai, called “Yes for a Greater Miami-Dade,” which spent more than $6.7 million to push the gambling referendum, and even hired a lobbyist close to Rivera, and former Rivera aide/local political mover Al Lorenzo. Flagler never disclosed the payments, as Yes did with its expenditures, and Rivera never disclosed the income he received on his campaign forms, which referenced only his $30,000 salary as an elected official, and an eventually deleted reference to consulting for USAID.
More on the company:
Rivera did report working as a consultant through Millennium for other clients from 2002 to 2005. At the time, however, Millennium was not an active company, state records show.
Magarino, Rivera’s mother, first founded a company called Millennium Marketing Strategies in 2000, but it was dissolved a year later. In 2006, a new Millennium was founded by Medina, a longtime business partner of Magarino’s, records show.
Magarino reappeared as a Millennium officer in April 2008, four days after the final payment from Flagler. Rivera himself has never been an officer of the company.
Medina and Margarino could not be reached for comment.
On Sept. 27, 2006 — two days after Millennium was re-formed — Rivera paid $15,000 to the company from his legislative campaign account for “campaign consulting,” records show. After winning reelection, Rivera paid another $15,000 in campaign funds to Millennium for organizing a “thank you campaign,” records show.
And then there’s this:
On Feb. 6, 2008 — only eight days after Rivera successfully led the campaign to bring slot machines to Miami-Dade — Rivera filed a bill in Tallahassee that would have nullified the referendum results, disallowing slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Millennium received the bulk of its payments — $460,000 — in the weeks after Rivera proposed this bill, which later died.
Asked about the bill at the time, Rivera told The Herald that he wanted to get rid of slots and the Lottery, and put both issues to a statewide vote.
Martinez, the lawyer for the track, said Rivera never discussed these bills or any other legislation with the track’s owners. Rivera was hired only to manage the referendum campaign, he said.
More on the investigation from CBS 4 investigative reporter Jim Defede:
Sources familiar with the investigation say prosecutors are still trying to determine if any laws were broken and whether Rivera received any of the money paid to Millennium and if he deliberately tried to hide that income.
Rivera has always denied he was paid for his work during the referendum and Rivera has never reported any income from the campaign on any of his financial disclosure forms.
In the past six weeks, investigators have issued “dozens” of subpoenas for banking and other records relating to Rivera and the gambling issue, according to sources.
Thursday afternoon, Rivera again denied he personally received any of the money paid to Millennium.
“Mr. Rivera has not been contacted about any investigation, nor do we believe there are any grounds for an investigation,” Rivera Spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said in a statement. “We will not be commenting on any alleged investigation.”
Prosecutors recently obtained a copy of a consulting contract which contains Rivera’s signature. CBS4 News was allowed to review a copy of the 2006 consulting agreement which detail what Rivera’s duties would be in the 2008 referendum campaign. Rivera would “Act as Top Leader of Chain of Command of All Campaign Consultants & Campaign Activities” and included in his responsibilities was the “Identification & Neutralization of Opposition.
And a bit more:
Millennium’s president is Ileana Medina and its vice president, secretary, and treasurer is Rivera’s mother, Daisy Magarino. The company reportedly operates out of a townhouse at 1316 SW 135th Place, but a woman answering the door recently refused to answer any questions.
Medina, who is Rivera’s Godmother, also refused to respond to questions.
Under the contract, Millennium was paid $50,000 immediately after the contract was signed in November 2006.
Then starting in January 2007, Millennium earned an additional $18,181 a month in consulting fees until the referendum occurred on January 29, 2008. As a result in February 2008, Millennium was paid approximately $210,000.
And because the referendum passed, Millennium was paid a $250,000 bonus in March 2008.
Total payments to Millennium: More than $510,000.
But according to the contract reviewed by CBS4 News, Millennium is also entitled to a second bonus of another $500,000. Under the terms of the contract, because the referendum passed, Millennium accrued $20,000 a month in bonuses for the 25 months following the election.
That money has not yet been paid to Millennium because, according to Martinez, neither Rivera nor Millennium has asked for the money. Instead they are allowing Flagler to hold it for them.
One of the oddities of the arrangement between Flagler and Millennium is that none of the money was paid through the Political Action Committee the owners of Flagler Dog Track set up to run the slots campaign. Flagler and Calder Race Course each contributed more than $3 million to the Vote Yes For A Greater Miami Dade PAC and used that money to hire scores of political consultants. Those payments were all reported on the quarterly campaign finance reports the PAC was required to file.
By not paying Millennium through the PAC, Flagler avoided making those payments public. Martinez, Flagler’s attorney, said the track was not trying to hide its payments for Rivera’s services. He said the agreement with Rivera pre-dated the establishment of the PAC.
But it does appear that the Havenick family, owners of Flagler Dog Track, has tried to hide their business relationship with Rivera. …
…On Thursday, Rivera’s spokeswoman Bascom said: “In 2006, Millennium Marketing, a company owned by a close family friend of David Rivera’s, was contracted to provide consulting services for the Flagler Dog Track and other related companies relating to the 2008 slots referendum. As part of that valid and legally executed contract, Rivera was designated by Millennium as its point of contact, acting as its on-the-ground strategic adviser. Rivera has never received income from either Flagler Dog Track or Millennium Marketing, Inc.”
Bascom’s statement made it appear that Flagler hired Millennium and Millennium just happened to hire Rivera. But Flagler attorney Martinez made it clear in an interview that Flagler’s interest was in hiring Rivera and that it was Rivera who brought Millennium into the discussion. In fact, state records show that Millennium wasn’t even created until just prior to the agreement with Flagler was signed.
When Bascom was notified of that fact, she issued a new statement, declaring:
“Mr. Rivera’s first discussions with Flagler were through then-owner Fred Havenick, who first discussed with Rivera the possibility of Rivera being involved in the 2008 referendum and has since passed. Mr. Rivera met Mr. Havenick because of Mr. Rivera’s extensive involvement in the 2005 referendum, for which he similarly received no income. Mr. Rivera does not recall who broached the subject first, but does specifically recall being invited to Mr. Havenick’s home after the 2005 referendum to discuss the idea with Mr. Havenick.
“Later on, after Mr. Havenick’s death, when Flagler expressed interest in moving forward with the idea, Mr. Rivera suggested the agreement be formally memorialized with Millennium. Flagler agreed that was the best way to proceed. Respectfully, Bobby Martinez had no participation in or knowledge of any of the discussions with Fred Havenick or any other family members after Mr. Havenick’s death.”
It just gets murkier and murkier … here’s the story from CBS yesterday:
UPDATE: But wait, there’s more … GOP strategist Chris Ingram, who knows this crowd well, says there could be another shoe to drop in the Rivera dog track circus…
Word on the street that guy is involved with Rivera’s alleged illegal lobbying for gambling interests issue. Those rumors have circulated for several months and are being looked into by at least one major newspaper in the state. Secret 527s and offshore bank accounts which the dirty-doers of Dade County apparently lived off of are part of the allegations.
It’s the October surprise I referenced back in October. Just a little late.
Won’t both of these disengenuous clowns look great in an orange jumpsuit?
We get what we deserve folks. Millions of Floridians with blinders on elected these two bozos expecting them (with all their baggage) to somehow save America from the path of destruction it is heading down. Somehow I think we’re all going to have a little buyer’s remorse before it’s all over and done with.
Drip … drip …
Related: Adam Weinstein sums it all up nicely (and provides an awesome Photoshop…)