House District 120 candidate Rhonda Rebman Lopez says she will keep a $1,000 donation from a David Rivera-linked firm which signed a lucrative contract with the Venezuelan government.
The New York Times reported that firm, Interamerican Consulting, signed a $50M consulting contract with Venezuela’s state-run oil company while it was still controlled by Nicolás Maduro.
That’s prompted at least one South Florida candidate who has been harshly critical of the Maduro regime to return a donation from Interamerican Consulting. Lopez, however, says she will keep the money.
“[Rivera’s] sister Diana, who’s a school teacher and Democrat, gave me that check,” Lopez told Florida Politics in a statement. “My mother was a public school teacher for over 40 years. Why would I reject a contribution from a school teacher?”
Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Esteban Bovo says he rejected the contribution because of the firm’s involvement with the socialist Venezuelan government.
“I’ve consistently condemned any activity that aids the Maduro dictatorship,” he explained on Twitter.
Lopez is one of three Republicans running to replace term-limited Rep. Holly Raschein. Clint Jay Barras is also competing in the contest as a Democrat.
The New York Times revealed the details of the contract in question after Rivera’s firm was sued in a U.S. District Court.
Representatives from the oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., say $15 million of the $50 million has been paid to Rivera’s firm. The suit alleges Interamerican Consulting failed to perform adequate services per the consulting agreement.
Those services include aims to boost the standing of the oil company among American officials.
Rivera implied he had taken the money to aid the Venezuelan opposition to Maduro. The New York Times report said there was no way to support Rivera’s explanation.
Rivera is a former GOP congressman who was a vocal critic of socialism, particularly the Cuban regime.
The Miami-Dade Democratic Party hammered Lopez for accepting the donation.
“Republican candidates across Miami-Dade love to bash Democrats for advocating for working people and increasing access to health care saying these ideas would lead down the path to Venezuelan-style socialism,” Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Steve Simeonidis said.
“At the same time, they clearly have no problem accepting money with direct links to Venezuelan dictator Maduro.”
Lopez is the top fundraiser in the HD 120 contest. Through April, she has pulled in nearly $210,000 in outside money and added $35,000 in self-loans.
That’s well ahead of the second-strongest fundraiser, Islamorada Councilman and former Mayor Jim Mooney. Mooney, who is also running as a Republican, has added just over $86,000.
Mooney did secure a notable endorsement Friday, as Raschein officially backed Mooney as her preferred successor. Monroe County Assistant State Attorney Alexandria Suarez is also vying for the GOP nomination.