If there's any lesson you can learn from watching bad daytime court shows, it's the following: it's hard to break ties with your past when you share names on a property deed.
For Sen. Marco Rubio, who just announced he is running for president yesterday, the issue is not with a past spouse. It's with longtime friend David Rivera, a scandal-ridden former U.S. congressman whom Rubio used to live with in Tallahassee, Florida.
The two bought a home in the state capital together in 2005, while both were working in the Florida legislature.
Rivera has twice been named by federal prosecutors as an alleged criminal conspirator in a scheme to secretly fund a candidate who ran in a primary against his political rival, former U.S. representative Joe Garcia in 2012. Others have been jailed in the scheme, though Rivera has not been charged.
He has also been investigated by state authorities for allegedly trying to hide a $1 million consulting contract with a Miami gambling business which was connected to his mother, for misusing campaign funds, and for lying about his declared income while he and Sen. Rubio were living together in that Tallahassee home. He has denied any wrongdoing, and state investigators declined to file charges, citing a statute of limitations.
FBI investigations into these allegations have long been rumored, but the bureau has yet to publicly confirm or deny that one is taking place.
Former friends and federal prosecutors have stated that they are confused as to why Rivera has not been federally indicted, citing corroborating witnesses, emails, and other evidence. Calls to Rivera were not returned, but he denies that he is under any kind of federal investigation: “Please send me this alleged ‘announcement’ by the federal government that I’m under federal investigation and please identify the agency that announced it… Neither exist," he wrote in an email to Politico last month.
Last month, a state court recommended that Rivera pay $58,000 to the Florida Ethics Commission stemming from some of the aforementioned ethics violations stemming from his time in Tallahassee, plus a few more allegations. The commission will ultimately decide if he has to pay that money in an April 17 meeting.
It’s possible that Rubio's relationship with Rivera could come back to haunt him in the heat of the campaign trail. Back in 2012, the Washington Post wrote: "You can sum up Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s biggest impediment to being chosen vice president in two words: David Rivera."
While they lived together, Rubio and other top Florida politicians' spending fell under scrutiny: he admitted to billing the state GOP for purchases amounting to $100,000 during his two-year tenure as State House Speaker. He said all the spending had to do with party activities, but told the Tampa Bay Times that he paid back $16,000 in personal expenses to the party.
After a long-time tenant recently moved out, the jointly-owned home that Rubio and Rivera share was put up for sale last month, where it remains on the market.
Shortly after the home's for sale status was reported, the Democratic National Committee of Florida created a tongue-in-cheek Craigslist post for the property, written as if Rubio wrote it.
“My co-owner, David Rivera, has his hands full with an ethics investigation and I’ve been spending a lot of time in New Hampshire and Iowa,” the now-deleted post read, according to the Miami Herald. “I am ultimately looking to settle in Washington full time (been measuring the drapes for a pretty nice white house there), so this is priced to sell.”
Rubio and Rivera's relationship has drawn considerable scrutiny in the past, though the two have remained close, by most accounts. Last month, Rivera told Politico that the two spoke "recently" and that their relationship remains unchanged.
“David Rivera reminds me of the villain Iago in ‘Othello’ — and Marco’s political career is Desdemona,” former state Rep. J.C. Planas, a Miami Republican who served with the two in Tallahassee, said to Politico. "Marco has stood by David, and it’s just baffling to me. I’ve never understood their relationship.”
Rubio's staff did not respond to comment for this story.
It was Rivera who helped launch Rubio's campaign into Florida politic. Rivera helped run Rubio's campaign for state rep in 2000, and Rubio followed suit on Rivera's behalf in 2002.
In recent years, however, Rubio has been measured about how he speaks about his old friend. During Rivera’s failed attempt at regaining his lost seat in Congress in 2014, Rubio notably declined to publicly endorse his old pal.
A year later, that cloud of scandal still hangs. Until Rivera is definitively cleared of all his legal troubles one way or another, his financial ties with Sen. Rubio will be scrutinized by his opponents, in hopes of finding a golden nugget of controversy.
Now if they could only sell that damn house.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.