MIAMI (CBS4) — In the final weeks of last year’s election, the Miami Dade Republican Party paid a close ally of Congressman David Rivera $150 thousand primarily to buy time on Spanish language radio stations for a variety of Republican candidates.
But a review led by The Miami Herald could only find documentation at the radio stations for $34 thousand worth of ads. Radio stations are required by law to maintain complete files on all political advertising. And Republican Party officials now admit they have no detailed records or receipts showing where the rest of the money went.
The Dade GOP hired Esther Nuhfer and her company, Communications Solutions, but never signed a formal contract with her. Nor did GOP officials require her to document precisely her expenditures. Party officials now say they have asked Nuhfer to provide a more complete accounting of the money.
At the time the GOP hired Nuhfer, Rivera was the party’s chairman. Rivera claims to have recused himself from the decision making process to hire Nuhfer, a longtime friend who Rivera has hired to work on several of his campaigns.
Neither Nuhfer nor Rivera would comment for this story.
“The only thing I can say is, you have to call the chairman because I’m not at liberty to discuss any of those kind of things or situations or anything,” said J.C. Hernandez, the executive director of the Miami Dade Republican Party.
Hernandez was referring to the current chairman, State Rep. Erik Fresen, who recently took over leadership of the party from Rivera. Fresen twice agreed to an interview with CBS4 News but cancelled one at the last minute and failed to make himself available for the other.
In a statement Rivera denies he had anything to do with Nuhfer being hired by the party to be a “media consultant.” But the ties between Nuhfer and Rivera run deep. Although he identifies her as his political fundraiser, friends say they are much closer.
The two have been known to travel together outside of Miami and they recently attended a black tie event for Miami Dade College, having their picture taken as a couple for the college magazine.
On Saturday when Rivera opened his new congressional district office in Miami CBS4 News wanted to ask Rivera about Nuhfer and the $150 thousand in party money given to her during his time as chairman, but his staff kept us away.
Yet questions do remain. Whose idea was it to hire Nuhfer? Why was there no formal contract between the Miami Dade Republican party and Nuhfer? And why didn’t Rivera and the party demanding more accounting from Nuhfer on how she spent the money?
Investigators who have been examining Rivera’s finances as part of their criminal probe of the freshman congressman have also been examining the relationship between Rivera and Nuhfer and the extent to which Rivera has been responsible for directing campaign funds to Nuhfer.
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