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Paul Crespo for FL-25: ‘It’s the Marine vs. the Machine’


As Republican primary voters cast their ballots today in Florida’s 25th Congressional District, they should do themselves, presumptive GOP senatorial nominee Marco Rubio, and the national Republican party a favor: elect Paul Crespo as their House of Representatives nominee over State Representative David Rivera.

Crespo, a policy-oriented Reaganite, is likely to shake up the House and steer the Republican conference toward free-market objectives.

Rivera seems like a swim-with-the-tide careerist with ethical worries that Democrats already are exploiting at the expense of Republicans outside the Sunshine State. As a Democratic website explains, if Rivera wins the GOP House nomination tonight, they will paint him as part of “a disturbing picture about national Republicans, their priorities, and the kind of leadership they’re offering Americans this November.”

Democrats are poised to pounce on Rivera on at least three issues:

— On September 6, 2002, while driving his Nissan on the Palmetto Expressway, Rivera was involved in a minor collision with a truck owned by Liberty Mailing. The truck carried a direct-mail attack piece sponsored by Rainier “Ray” Gonzalez, Rivera’s then-opponent in the GOP primary for the Tallahassee legislative seat that Rivera won and now holds. Gonzalez’s mailing discussed still-controversial domestic-abuse allegations against Rivera.

As CBS’s Miami affiliate reported on August 17, Rivera’s critics say that he was trying to intercept Gonzalez’s literature just ten minutes before it could be mailed to primary voters before that evening’s 6:00 p.m. delivery deadline at a nearby U.S. Post Office. Rivera’s campaign, in turn, claims that he was trying to “retrieve a batch of his own campaign fliers” that Liberty Mailing also produced and carried on the same truck.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Richard Sierra — president of Hialeah-based Dodd Communications, which now owns Liberty Mailing — told the Miami Herald. “Whatever was on the truck was mailed. Nothing was taken off the truck.’’

This story includes plenty of contradictions, faded memories, and “he said, she said” nuances. Fairly or not, Rivera could find himself having to explain his way through these details. And every day he spends reliving this bizarre incident — and the hotly disputed domestic-violence restraining order that underlies it — is another day that Rivera will remain on defense, rather than on offense, making the affirmative case for his candidacy and agenda.

● CBS Miami further reported that Rivera denied in June that a bank had started to foreclose on a home that he co-owned with presumptive GOP U.S. Senate nominee Marco Rubio. In fact, property and foreclosure documents indicate that Rivera did co-own that residence.

If Rivera is nominated, Democrats will tie his candidacy tightly around Rubio’s neck and chant “foreclosure, foreclosure, foreclosure!”

Marco Rubio — arguably this year’s most appealing Republican candidate — hardly needs this distraction as he attempts to inject youth, free-market reformism, and a Hispanic flavor into the GOP, which desperately needs all three.

● In a year in which House Republicans would be wise to remind voters about the behavior of ethically dubious Democrats, such as New York’s Rep. Charles Rangel and California’s Rep. Maxine Waters, Rivera will find it tough to raise such issues. Democrats quickly will point to his dodgy ethics.

Rivera collected some $700,000 in campaign cash during the Florida legislature’s 60-day session, much of it from lobbyists and their clients. A 1994 Florida law prohibits such solicitations, although it allows state legislators to raise funds for federal campaigns, provided such fundraising has no undue influence on the state legislator’s acts or votes.

“My fundraising activity has been completely transparent to the public,” Rivera told Miami’s New Times. “I will have it no other way.”

Campaign fundraising records transparently show that Rivera received money from at least 80 individuals and PACs with business before the state legislature, and some before the State House’s Appropriations Committee, which Rivera chairs. These include, among others, John Brunetti, owner of the Hialeah Race Track, and the Fanjul brothers, the notorious owners of Florida Crystal Sugar Company and two of the most indefatigable proponents of federal sugar subsidies.

One hopes that those who wrote Rivera these checks while state legislators met did not intend any undue influence over his actions or votes in Tallahassee…or Washington.

Democrats already have their knives out for Rivera. As Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Crider puts it, “Dangerous, scandal plagued candidates like David Rivera represent the kind of leadership Republicans are offering voters this November.”

In contrast, Paul Crespo stands on his record in the U.S. Marine Corps, in various diplomatic positions from the Balkans to Latin America, and as a Miami-based radio host, public-affairs commentator, and political-science lecturer at the University of Miami.

Among other issues, Crespo favors a voluntary flat tax with a rate of just 12 percent and a personal deduction of $15,000. This is about as game-changing a tax plan as I have encountered. Crespo is not worried by those who would say his tax proposal is not revenue neutral. “This plan is not about preserving the status quo,” Crespo says. “It’s about benefiting the millions of hard working Americans who are unfairly burdened by today’s obscene tax code.”

I have known Crespo since our days as fellow members of Young Americans for Freedom at Georgetown University. Since our sophomore year, Paul has been driven by conservative and free-market ideas and a strong belief in public service (as embodied by his twelve years in the USMC). He also maintains about as hardcore a posture on national security as anyone I know.

Paul is precisely the sort of candidate Republicans need, not just to regain control of Congress, but to make that victory worthwhile by enacting conservative and libertarian reforms, rather than implementing spendthrift, “Democrat Lite” policies, as was all too common in the reprehensible Bush-Rove-Frist-Hastert years.

Crespo captured it crisply by phone Monday: “Hey, man, it’s the Marine vs. the Machine.”

— Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.


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