This past weekend the Miami Herald reported that an ongoing investigation into U.S. Rep. David Rivera was focusing on how he spent leftover campaign funds. The Herald story focused primarily on money spent by Rivera for his state Senate campaign. (In the end, Rivera dropped out of that race and ran for Congress.)
This isn't the first time that Rivera - and other lawmakers - have been asked about how they use leftover campaign cash.
Here's a first draft of a story from 2009 that I worked on for a news organization. (The reasons that the story never ran included that too much time had passed because the story focused on 2008, that the story neeeded to be more comprehensive, etc.)
But the story did include include comments from Rivera at the time.
Florida state lawmakers have used leftover campaign money on everything from new computers, cigars and meals months and weeks after they were re-elected, a review of 2008 campaign records show.
State law requires legislators running for office to shut down their campaign accounts 90 days after an election. That law also spells out how any leftover money can be used, including letting legislators give it to charity or back to donors or use it to thank voters.
But a review showed that dozens of questionable uses by legislators, with money spent on meals, gas, cigars, and trips to places such as Best Buy and Office Depot.
Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, spent more than $100 at an Ethopian restaurant in Miami nearly two months after she was re-elected without opposition in June 2008. Her campaign records also show she used campaign money to pay for a meeting at the New York City hotel that features a restaurant run by famed television chef Gordon Ramsay.
Bullard, who was re-elected without opposition in June 2008, denied knowing anything about the expenses when asked.
“I have no knowledge of it at all,’’ said Bullard, who said she wasn’t in New York City last summer.
Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R- Hialeah, spent $486 for “campaign cigars” more than a month after Election Day. Rep. Ronald Brise, D-North Miami, spent money on gas and even a $2 parking charge after he was elected without opposition last June.
Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, spent $2,386 at Best Buy on Sept. 14 to replace a “stolen computer.” The purchase came nearly three months after she was re-elected without opposition. She said her home was burglarized and the thief took off with the computer she used to do campaign reports.
Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, spent money on gas at convenience stores and money on meals at restaurants in both Tallahassee and Key West in the days after his Republican opponent withdrew from the race. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, spent $5,400 at Best Buy the day before the election on “information technology.” He then made two more trips to Best Buy and spent nearly $3,000 in December.
Rivera said he bought equipment, including computers and printers, to put together mailers to thank voters. He was allowed to keep the computers once he was done using it for campaign work.
“You also get to keep the paper clips you buy during a campaign,’’ said Rivera. “I’m not the first candidate to buy a computer for a campaign.’’