MIAMI - State Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican and budget chief who has steered state funding to Florida International University, solicited all 4,000 FIU employees to donate to his congressional campaign, prompting the provost to issue a campuswide warning Thursday about using public resources for political activities.
A disclaimer at the bottom of the letter said it was paid for by the Rivera campaign and that no FIU resources were used.
The letter was signed by two FIU professors, who said Rivera helped the school receive more state money for new facilities than any other public university in 2010. In 2009, Rivera helped secure an additional $11 million for FIU's new medical school.
"No legislator has made more significant contributions to FIU's growth and development over the past several years than David," wrote public administration professor Allan Rosenbaum and politics professor John F. Stack Jr.
The letter triggered Provost Douglas Wartzok to write in a memo: "We all have a right and are encouraged to be involved in the political process, but such activity must take place off-campus, using private resources, and on personal time."
The Rivera campaign dismissed the memo as "an internal FIU matter." But the dustup comes as the fierce proponent of the Cuban embargo finds himself in the hot seat for denying his close relationship with a businessman who facilitates trade with Cuba, Ariel Pereda.
As chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party, Rivera came under fire about the relationship, along with accusations that he used his chairmanship to promote his own campaign.
"David was elected to a two-year term, and he's taken every step to ensure no conflicts between his role as a candidate and role as chairman of the party," said Rivera's campaign chairman, Javier Correoso.
Rivera, the GOP front-runner, is expected to face Democrat Joe Garcia in the Nov. 2 general election. Garcia is the former chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, presenting voters with a dramatic choice between two high-flying political figures.
The Rivera campaign obtained the names and addresses of the FIU faculty and staff through a public records request, according to university spokeswoman Maydel Santana-Bravo. The provost's memo has been circulated before, she said, but "the situation with the letter from the Rivera campaign provided us a new opportunity to remind people of the rules."
The memo said that "political propaganda'' and fundraising are barred in public buildings, and university resources cannot be used to promote a campaign. Santana-Bravo said the professors who signed the letter did not break the rules because they wrote it on personal time.
The fundraising letter was sent to the Miami Herald by an unidentified FIU employee, who wrote in an e-mail: "The discomfort we all feel at being solicited at work is entirely bipartisan."