Steve Simeonidis, the chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, is filing a complaint against Republican House District 120 candidate Rhonda Rebman Lopez over a $1000 donation from a firm linked to former U.S. Rep. David Rivera.
The donation came from Interamerican Consulting, a firm run by Rivera. The complaint filed by Simeonidis alleges that Rivera and his sister Diana Rivera are its only employees.
The New York Times has reported that Interamerican Consulting signed a $50M consulting contract with Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). That contract was signed while the company was controlled by Nicolás Maduro.
The Times reported on May 13, 2020 that Rivera structured the consulting deal with the Venezuelan government so that all funds would be paid to Interamerican Consulting by PDVSA’s American subsidiary.
“This was ostensibly done in an attempt to deceive the public,” said the complaint filed by Simeonidis. “Notwithstanding that fact, the originating source of the funds paid to Interamerican Consulting, Inc. was PDVSA and/or the Venezuelan government.”
Four days after the New York Times story ran, Lopez declined to return the donation. A similar donation was made to Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Esteban Bovo, but he elected to return the money after the Times story.
In a statement to Florida Politics, Lopez said she would keep the money because it had come directly from Diana Rivera.
“[Rivera’s] sister Diana, who’s a school teacher and Democrat, gave me that check,” Lopez told Florida Politics in a statement in mid-May. “My mother was a public school teacher for over 40 years. Why would I reject a contribution from a school teacher?”
According to the complaint filed by Simeonidis, Lopez erred in saying that the contribution came from Diana Rivera.
“This statement, if true, is in contrast to the fact that the $1000 campaign contribution in question was issued in the name of Interamerican Consulting, Inc. Thus, an inference is raised that the true source of the funds was PDVSA, a foreign entity. If true, this would violate not only Fla. Stat. 106.08(5)(a)’s requirement that ‘[a] person may not make any contribution through or in the name of another, directly or indirectly, in any election,’ but also federal campaign finance laws.”
Lopez did not immediately address the substance of the allegations.
“I’ve raised over $200,000 from people of all walks of life, all party affiliations,” Lopez said in an official statement. “As the clear Frontrunner in this campaign, I’ve been way too busy talking to voters about important issues like the COVID-response and its economic impact to worry about who’s contributing and which opponents are filing frivolous complaints. I’m laser focused on one thing, which is our hard-working citizens in District 120 and their pressing concerns.”
Simeonidis issued the following statement regarding the formal complaint.
“Either Rhonda Rebman Lopez accepted tainted money funneled from the brutal dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro through a corrupt former Congressman, or she accepted a donation from that man’s sister, but broke campaign finance law in the process. We are tired of the dirty money flowing into Republican politics in Miami-Dade County. We are tired of the lame excuses from those who seek to represent us in our legislature. We call on the Florida Election Commission to investigate these allegations swiftly and bring appropriate corrective action as soon as possible.”