FROM THE BLOGS
David Rivera, Vern Buchanan Among 2011's "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" He is That Guy by Matthew Coppens
U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s weekly newsletter missed something.
While dutifully recording the freshman congressman’s meeting with Miss Florida 2011, Kristina Janolo, and his support of Israel expressed at a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, it failed to mention a distinction bestowed this week by the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
CREW named Rivera, who represents part of Collier County, as one of its “2011 Most Corrupt.”
Rivera wound up on the list of 13 representatives and one senator thanks to numerous ongoing investigations into allegations of money laundering, unreported income and misuse of campaign contributions.
None of the information in the CREW report is new, having been reported in Florida news outlets dating back to almost the day Rivera took office less than a year ago.
Rather than refute the allegations against him, when asked about the CREW report, Rivera’s campaign responded by pointing out CREW’s ties to Democratic politicians and left-leaning causes.
“CREW is a well known Democrat Party front-group funded by liberal activists like George Soros. It is not surprising they would attack fiscal conservatives like Congressman Rivera who, besides fighting against tax increases and for balanced budgets, has also welcomed any and all public scrutiny,” the campaign said in a written statement.
CREW does not reveal the sources of its annual donations _ “If we disclosed our donors, we wouldn’t have donors,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan _ but underpinnings definitely tend toward the left.
Sloan is a former staff member to Democratic members of Congress including John Conyers, Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer.
Board members include Democratic pollster Mark Penn, Norman Eisen, President Barack Obama’s appointee as special counsel for ethics and government reform and later the president’s choice as Czech ambassador, Daniel Berger, a Philadelphia attorney who bundled more than $100,000 in campaign contributions for Obama and John Luongo, who contributed to the president’s inauguration committee.
As in years, past, the CREW Most Corrupt list includes Democrats as well as Republicans, with a decided majority being Republicans.
Ten of this years dishonorees are Republicans and four are Democrats. One other Floridian, Rep. Vern Buchanan of Bradenton, is from Florida.
Some who had made the list in years past such as representatives Don Young, Charles Rangel and Jesse Jackson Jr. were not included simply because there was nothing new to report on their cases this year, the CREW report states.
Others, most notably Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, escaped inclusion because they no longer serve in Congress.
While most cases center around money not all do. Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., a former Marine and FBI agent, was included because he used the symbols of the Marine Corps and the FBI in his campaign literature and because he endorsed a private security company a violation of House rules. The case against Rivera is much more extensive.
CREW states that Rivera is under criminal investigation by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
At issue are Rivera’s sources of income while he was serving in the Florida House of Representatives and payments made by the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County to a firm owned by a friend of Rivera’s while Rivera served as chairman of the party.
Sloan dismissed Rivera’s claim of bias. “It’s something people say to deflect attention from their own problems. We’re not the ones who put him under investigation,” she said.
In addition to calling attention to individual members’ shortcomings, one reason for the annual report, now in its seventh year, is to try to spur the government to police itself. “Despite the number of high-profile scandals, there continues to be scant enforcement of ethics rules,” it states. “The Department of Justice has repeatedly refused to press charges against crooked politicians. The House and Senate ethics committees are rarely stirred to action and even when they are, investigations drag out for years. The public deserves better than this.”
The CREW list makes for interesting reading, but it doesn’t necessarily spell doom for a politician. A year ago, CREW put out a report, “Crooked Candidates.” On that list were all three major candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Florida’s Mel Martinez. The eventual winner of that race, Marco Rubio, is now being talked about as a possible vice presidential, and even presidential, candidate.
Rivera’s campaign vows he will soldier on in that spirit. “Congressman Rivera will remain focused on working to create jobs, rein in spending, and improve the economy, which is exactly what his Collier County constituents elected him to do,” the statement concludes.
Connect with Brent Batten at naplesnews.com/staff/brent_batten