TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Ethics Commission on Wednesday found probable cause that Rep. David Rivera, who is in a tight re-election race, committed 11 violations of ethics laws while he was a state legislator.
Accusations against the Miami Republican include receiving income from Southwest Florida Enterprises Inc., a company involved with Flagler Dog Track in Miami, that he knew or should have known was given to influence his vote or official action and using campaign funds for non-campaign expenses.
He also is alleged to have had a $1 million business contract with Southwest Florida Enterprises that would create a frequent conflict between his private interests and public duties. Rivera signed the 2006 contract to manage a successful campaign to expand gambling in Miami-Dade County.
The commission also found probable cause for six alleged financial disclosure violations and that he misused his position to request state reimbursement for travel and failed to report a debt.
Rivera and his lawyers did not immediately return calls seeking comment, but he has previously denied wrongdoing. He can seek a hearing to dispute the allegations or seek a settlement with the commission. The panel is powerless to penalize him, but the Florida House could take action based on its findings.
Ethical questions have lingered over Rivera since he was elected to Congress two years ago, and they have overshadowed his rematch with Democratic challenger Joe Garcia, a former Obama administration official in the Department of Energy.
Rivera tried to get the ethics commission to delay its probable cause hearing, held behind closed doors on Friday, until after the Nov. 6 election.
The congressman also remains under federal investigation for potential tax violations although a related state investigation cleared him in April.
Rivera obtained the Southwest Florida Enterprises contract through Millennium Marketing Inc., founded by his mother but later reopened by a close friend of his mother.
Associated Press writer Gary Fineout contributed to this story.
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