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  • FEC Record: Litigation

Appeals court vacates grant of summary judgment in FEC v. Rivera

July 8, 2024

On July 1, 2024, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (the appeals court) vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment and subsequent final judgment in FEC v. Rivera. The district court had found former Representative David Rivera liable for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (the Act) ban on contributions in the name of another, 52 U.S.C. § 30122, by engaging in a scheme to secretly provide nearly $76,000 in in-kind contributions to a federal candidate.


Rivera served as a member of the House of Representatives, representing Florida’s 25th congressional district, from 2011 to 2013. The FEC alleged that, during his re-election campaign in 2012, Rivera enlisted the help of an associate to secretly fund Justin Lamar Sternad, a candidate for the Democratic nomination, in order to weaken his eventual opponent, Joe Garcia.

After a multi-year investigation and failed attempt to secure a conciliation agreement with Rivera, the FEC filed an initial complaint on July 14, 2017, which was dismissed for failure to state a claim. On January 15, 2019, the FEC filed an amended complaint and then moved for summary judgment on August 10, 2020, arguing that the undisputed evidence establishes that Rivera violated the Act. On February 23, 2021, the district court granted the FEC’s motion for summary judgment and followed with a final judgment issuing a $456,000 civil penalty against Rivera. The district court also entered a permanent injunction against Rivera, prohibiting him from making campaign contributions in the name of another. Rivera appealed the judgment.


In granting summary judgment, the district court relied on grand jury testimony and a plea colloquy from one of Rivera’s associates, finding this evidence indicative of Rivera using a “middleman” to assist in his campaign finance efforts. Additionally, the district court relied on testimony from witnesses, vendors, and Sternad. However, Rivera provided competing testimony, specifically a deposition in which he denied supporting or voicing support for Sternad’s campaign and two affidavits denying that he served as the source of money or in-kind contributions to the Sternad campaign and denying that he paid certain vendors on behalf of the Sternad campaign.

Summary judgment may be granted where the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” Rivera argued that the district court erred in granting summary judgment because there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding questions that should be resolved by a jury. The appeals court agreed, finding that the district court improperly discounted Rivera’s competing testimony. Accordingly, the appeals court vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment and subsequent final judgment and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.


  • Author 
    • Paul Stoetzer
    • Sr. Communications Specialist