Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., was charged Wednesday by Florida authorities with alleged ethics violations while he was in the state Legislature, perhaps imperiling his bid for re-election to the House in an already tight contest.
In action last Friday that was made public Wednesday, Florida's Ethics Commission said it believes Rivera violated state ethics laws in 11 instances — receiving income from the owners of a dog track that was meant to influence his vote. Rivera later voted to approve a bill that increased the number of slot machines allowed at the track. The commission also said it believes Rivera used campaign funds to cover personal expenses.
The allegations go back to the time when Rivera was serving in the state Legislature. Miami-Dade's state attorney said she couldn't bring charges because the statute of limitations had expired. That's when Florida's Ethics Commission stepped in, picking up the investigation.
Rivera — a longtime friend of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — is in a tough race for re-election. Most polls show him trailing Democrat Joe Garcia in the state's newly redrawn 26th Congressional District in the southern tip of the state. Along with the state ethics probe, Rivera is also the subject of a federal investigation into alleged campaign violations involving his current race.
Rivera called the charges "false" and said he believes the Ethics Commission is playing politics. In a statement, he said, "There is absolutely no legitimate reason for the Commission to have acted now on these old politically motivated claims, which have already been dismissed by other authorities, other than to try and influence the outcome of this election for its own agenda."