Saturday, April 25, 2015

Feds charge Joe Garcia's ex-chief of staff of running ringer candidate: Providing some context

"While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself." - Douglas Horton  
Joe Garcia and David Rivera face off in a debate. Both mired in scandal
Three years ago in the blog entry, "Deja Vu at The Miami Herald?" I wrote that "it will be interesting to look back six years from now and try to understand what was actually going on with the benefit of hindsight."  In half that time the picture that emerges smashes the initial press narrative from 2012.

Lit piece from alleged 2010 Garcia ringer candidate Roly Arrojo
The press, at first, portrayed Joe Garcia as an innocent victim, but what emerges now are two party nominees that played fast and loose with campaign finance laws and ethical conduct by placing ringers into political races to split their adversary's vote. At the time this blog also reported on a criminal conspiracy that was being ignored in the mainstream press:
In 2010 Roly Arrojo , a candidate billed as a Tea Party conservative candidate was a registered democrat that some say Joe Garcia placed into the general election to peel of votes from the Republican nominee because their was a business relationship between Garcia's campaign manager and the Democrat turned Tea Party candidate.
Today's news in The Miami Herald confirms the above speculation from 2012:
Federal prosecutors on Friday accused former Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s ex-chief of staff of secretly financing a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010 to draw votes away from a Republican rival — an illegal scheme that inspired a more serious copycat case two years later.  Jeffrey Garcia was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to pose as a GOP primary challenger to David Rivera.  Arrojo was also charged Friday with the same misdemeanor.
Three years later, it now appears that David Rivera, who is accused of being behind the Lamar Sternad candidacy in the 2012 democratic primary, was retaliating against Joe Garcia for placing a "tea party" candidate in the 2010 general election to split the conservative vote.

What has been left out, so far, in the current reporting is the absentee ballot fraud committed by the Joe Garcia campaign in 2012 that led to a criminal investigation. The Rivera  campaign has not been accused or associated with ballot fraud.

Giancarlo Sopo, left, and John Estes, right
 Jeffrey Garcia, 41, Congressman Garcia's chief of staff, spent 90 days in jail as part of a plea deal he reached with the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, CBS4 reported.  Two other staffers were also implicated. "The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office served search warrants at the homes of Giancarlo Sopo, 30, Joe Garcia’s communications director; and John Estes, 26, his 2012 campaign manager seeking electronic equipment such as computers."

Jeffrey Garcia, Former Chief of Staff for Joe Garcia

South Dade Matters followed this story closely at the time and reported in greater detail on the role of Former Congressman Joe Garcia's staffers in the ballot fraud, and in the July 3, 2013 blog entry Another Garcia Shoe Drops quoted The Miami Herald:
[Giancarlo] Sopo had been placed on unpaid administrative leave last month, days after Miami-Dade prosecutors and police raided his cousin’s home in connection with the scheme to request ballots online for nearly 500 unsuspecting voters in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary.
What is shocking is that former Congressman Joe Garcia, who left office under an ethical cloud, and apparently a criminal investigation, has now been hired as a senior vice president in a Miami-based bank.

Three years from now it will be interesting to look back at this story, and with the benefit of hindsight, see more clearly behind the smoke and mirrors at the underlying criminal acts in these political scandals from 2010 and 2012.  Hopefully this mess will serve as a cautionary example to others not to repeat these practices.

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