Fiscal conservatism. Tax cuts. Small government. Marco Rubio (R-West Miami) has based his campaign for the U.S. Senate on these issues.
He is so concerned about the economy that he recently said we should shut Congress and Washington D.C. down for two years to fix it.
He worries that his children’s generation “will be the first to inherit a diminished country.” His preventive medicine includes limited government, tax reform, spending restraint and removal of all impediments to the entrepreneurship that makes America a place “where poor people can put billionaires out of business.”
Since Rubio touts “spending restraint” as one of the ways to deal with our economic problems, than he would probably frown on a member of the Republican Party using a state GOP issued American Express card on things like wine, grocery bills, repairs on the family minivan and subsequent fees for rental cars, and plane tickets for family members on trips they may or may not have taken. You would think this kind of spending spree on the taxpayer’s dime would be something Rubio would reject, right? Well, you would be wrong.
Because the GOP member racking up all those charges is Marco Rubio, and he claims they are all legitimate GOP expenses.
According to records obtained by The Miami Herald and The St. Petersburg Times, Rubio listed these among charges that he claims were legitimate party expenses:
• $765 at Apple’s online store for “computer supplies.”
• $25.76 from Everglades Lumber for “supplies.”
• $53.49 at Winn-Dixie in Miami for “food.”
• $68.33 at Happy Wine in Miami for “beverages” and “meal.”
• $78.10 for two purchases at Farm Stores in suburban Miami.
• $412 at All Fusion Electronics, a music equipment store in Miami, for “supplies.”
Rubio’s campaign could not find records to explain many of these expenses Wednesday night. But Rubio stressed that GOP staffers also may be responsible for some expenses because they also had access to the credit card.
Rubio said the party allowed him to put personal expenses on the card — and the party reviewed his bill monthly.
“I was as diligent as possible to ensure the party did not pay for items that were unrelated to party business,” Rubio said in a written statement. “There was no formal process provided by the Party regarding personal charges.”
Party spokeswoman Katie Gordon said the card was not supposed to be used for personal expenses. “The RPOF American Express card is a corporate card and is meant to be used for business expenses.”
Donations to parties must go exclusively toward influencing elections under IRS rules.
Rubio charged at least $1,000 for repairs to his family minivan, along with $2,976 for a rental car. His explanation for that?
Rubio said the minivan was damaged by parking attendants at a political function and that the party agreed to cover half of his insurance deductible.
As for those plane tickets?
Rubio also booked six plane tickets for his wife using the card. It was unclear how many, if any, of those trips his wife actually took; in some instances, she did not fly and Rubio was credited by the airline.
“My wife was the First Lady of the Florida House of Representatives and it is absolutely appropriate for her to accompany me to official events and party functions,” Rubio said.
Rubio was among at least a half-dozen high-ranking Florida lawmakers given GOP credit cards in recent years, allowing them to spend donations to the party outside public view. Revelations that former chairman Jim Greer and executive director Delmar Johnson charged chartered planes and lavish meals to their cards sparked a grass-roots rebellion and the election of new leadership last week.
Also among the charges:
In 2008 alone, the GOP paid $1.8 million in American Express charges, state records show. More than $100,000 was spent on Rubio’s card from November 2006 to November 2008.
Rubio also billed the GOP for expenses in Tallahassee during the legislative sessions in 2007 and 2008. The bills include nearly $4,100 in restaurant tabs during the 2007 and 2008 sessions — from a $409 bill at a Macaroni Grill to a $7.09 charge at a Chick-fil-A. When Rubio became speaker, he spent about $400,000 in tax dollars to remodel offices and build a members-only dining room so lawmakers rushing to meetings would not have to leave the Capitol to eat.
So again, you would think this would be the type of thing that a fiscally conservative Sarah Palin Marco Rubio would be outraged about. Outraged! Actually, no. But Rubio is angry about it all right, you betcha’! He’s angry that those records got out and saw the light of day in the first place!
Rubio sent a letter to the new party chairman, State Sen. John Thrasher accusing his U.S. Senate campaign rival Charlie Crist of leaking the documents:
“It is clear these internal documents were taken from the RPOF by former chairman Jim Greer or someone working for him and were leaked to the media by the Crist campaign,” Rubio’s letter said. “These actions are an appalling act of political desperation.”
Rubio released a statement in defense of the spending, claiming that he actually saved taxpayers money.
In his statement to The Miami Herald, Rubio said he “erred on the side of caution” to save taxpayer dollars by charging these items to the party.
“This decision ultimately saved taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars and avoided the appearance of taxpayers subsidizing my political activity,” Rubio said.
Election law experts say party credit cards should cover only expenses aimed at influencing elections — fundraising, voter registration, candidate recruitment — under IRS rules for tax-exempt organizations.
“If you can look at an IRS agent with a straight face and say this was for electioneering purposes, that’s fine. If you can’t, you shouldn’t do it,” said Tallahassee attorney John French. “It’s got to pass the smell test.”
Marco Rubio sure spent a lot of taxpayer money as a member of the GOP. Now he’s running as if he were “The King of the Tea Party” to get votes, and championing “Tea Bagger” anti-tax, small government values.
So Tea Baggers take note. All those taxes he justifies spending have to come from somewhere.