The Florida State Attorney’s Office has released a “close-out” memo detailing the dead ends it hit in its investigation into Republican Rep. David Rivera’s finances.
The probe began back in October 2010, but word spread earlier this week that prosecutors had shut down the case because of, among other factors, ambiguities in Florida’s campaign finances laws and the statute of limitations preventing prosecution over campaign expenses more than two years old. Still, the close-out memo doesn’t offer any apologies from the prosecutors for investigating the freshman congressman.
“As part of this inquiry we have been confronted with the fact that an elected official over a period of many years may essentially live off of a combination of contributions made in support of public office candidacies, contributions made in support of internal political party position candidacies, and indirect payments made as a consideration for efforts as a political strategist while avoiding penal sanction,” the memo states, in its conclusion.
One section of the memo describes the investigation into payments made by a Florida dog track to a company connected to Rivera’s mother and “godmother” — payments made in exchange for Rivera’s services on a slot machine initiative in the state. Prosecutors traced over a hundred thousand dollars of the money back to Rivera, money he did not disclose as income while serving in the Florida House of Representatives. Rivera later amended his public filings to include loans from the company, Millenium Marketing.
After Rivera’s mother and “godmother” told prosecutors that the money Rivera received from Millenium Marketing was given as loans, prosecutors “wanted to determine if the original promissory notes were, in fact, from the dates reflected on the notes as purported by the witnesses or alternatively whether they were fraudulently created once the investigation commenced.” There were two ways prosecutors wanted to check the notes. One was a forensic computer analysis, checking the hard drive to see when the notes were written. The other was ink dating, by checking the evaporation of the ink on the original documents. Unfortunately, prosecutors were told that the original promissory notes were lost, and that the computer they were created on had “stopped working and was discarded.”
“Without commenting on the veracity of the explanation that has been provided to us regarding the alleged ‘loan’ and ‘promissory note’ transactions, there is no evidence to disprove the explanation forwarded on behalf of the subject,” the memo states.
In another section, the memo describes how, in an interview with prosecutors, Rivera was asked to address potential violations, and is said to have responded with a “very broad interpretation of what constitutes permissible campaign related expenditures.”
“Moreover, he explained as a single man without children, his entire life’s focus was on political activities related in some manner to campaigns for office,” the memo states. “Essentially, he was campaigning almost every day for years.”
According to the document, Rivera even claimed that his conservative political positions necessitated having a female accompany him to campaign events:
Further, the subject continued, that as a single man running as a political conservative, it was necessary for him to appear at campaign related events with a female escort. According to the subject’s broad interpretations of the law, it was appropriate and permissible to pay for his female companion’s expenditures as well, as they were essential to his elections campaigns. The subject was actually able to identify political party events, functions, or meetings, in connection with most if not all of his out of town trips.
In the end though, prosecutors conceded to Rivera, even if they didn’t like it.
“We do not agree with the subject’s contention that Florida law was intended to allow for the use of campaign funds to defray the costs of many of the expenditures described above,” the memo states. “Nevertheless, we have been forced to acknowledge that the language of Florida Statute 106.1405 allows for such a broad reading.”
Late Update: Rivera’s campaign sent TPM the following statement responding to the close-out memo:
While the State Attorney’s report is an outrageous and libelous distortion of facts filled with lies, fabrications, and innuendo, Congressman Rivera is pleased the State Attorney has concluded their frivolous investigation and has not found any wrongful conduct on his part. Congressman Rivera provided the State Attorney with detailed evidence refuting all of their false allegations, none of which they included in their report. It is unfortunate that the State Attorney has chosen to try and justify their waste of taxpayer dollars by hiding behind false and politically motivated accusations which they simply cannot prove. In the end, however, one fact remains, Congressman Rivera has been exonerated.
Read the full memo from the Florida State Attorney’s Office:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com