It looks like there’s even more questionable charges on that GOP American Express card bill of Marco Rubio’s. He claims that many were party expenses, but that’s just a bit hard to swallow.
For instance, a charge of $134, which might seem like a minimal charge, but not so much considering it was for a visit to an upscale Miami barber.
While Rubio claims that he repaid all the personal expenses he charged in 2007 and 2008, an amount of $16,052, there were periods during that time that he didn’t repay everything. The GOP picked up the tab for $93,566 in charges including $4,000 for repairs to the Rubio family minivan and a rental car for five weeks. These charges are raising eyebrows even from members of Rubio’s own party.
Asked whether the party should release credit card records to clear the air before the 2010 election, former state party chairman Tom Slade on Thursday said, “Hell yes.”
“We should not under any circumstances attempt to make this not totally transparent,” Slade said. “We’ve got to take a hit for it because we have mismanaged money that people gave us and used it for purposes they did not intend it to be used.”
Rubio’s campaign adviser is attempting to explain away at least some of the charges, but even that seems a bit ridiculous:
Rubio’s campaign adviser, Todd Harris, explained some charges Thursday that were picked up by the party. A $765 charge at Apple’s online store was for a “hard drive to store political files.” Purchases at Winn-Dixie for $53.49 and Farm Stores in Miami for $78.10 were for “soft drinks.” Two bills from Happy Wine in Miami were for “lunch,” though one of the charges is listed in a party report as “beverages.”
So Rubio is charging the GOP for “liquid lunches” from a wine store?
Harris said a $368 car rental in Las Vegas in 2007 was to meet a donor. Asked for the name of the donor, Harris snapped: “I didn’t ask, and it’s not your or anyone else’s business.”
In a written statement to the Times/Herald on Wednesday, Rubio said the state party agreed to pay half of his insurance deductible to cover damage to his car at a political event in 2007. He said the party also signed off on a rental car in Miami for five weeks that cost $2,976.
The family minivan was damaged, and repaired at the GOP’s expense because the damage occurred at a political event? So by that logic, would all auto related charges be covered too because all Rubio’s actions are perpetual “political events?” Loose description anyone?
Many have called for an investigation into the Republican Party of Florida’s credit card scandals recently, and not just Rubio’s. Unfortunately, Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum (who is also running for Governor to replace Charlie Crist) is not all that interested.
Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Republican front-runner to replace Crist as governor, said of releasing the credit card records: “To open this at the present time could compromise a criminal investigation.”
Rubio has claimed he paid back some of the expenses “out of an abundance of caution” as if he thinks it might not be necessary, but rather he’s doing everyone a favor by paying back some of the bill. He’s actually more outraged by the fact that this came out in the first place, and he’s accusing the Crist campaign of leaking the information, to which Crist has responded, saying he knows nothing about it.
“What matters to me is that the people have the right to know how people spend their money, how they comport themselves, how they conduct themselves, before they put themselves up for public office,” said Crist, who did not have a party credit card. “It’s happened to the speaker. He apparently doesn’t like it. That’s too bad. Welcome to the NFL.”
I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it either.
The IRS limits tax-exempt organizations like political parties to spending money only on influencing elections. Rubio did not make monthly payments to American Express and made no contributions to the bill during one six-month stretch in 2007, records show.
Miami lawyer Ben Kuehne, an election law expert who has represented the Florida Democratic Party, said some of Rubio’s expenses “sound incredibly personal, not political.”
“This is party money. Not the elected officials’ money,” he said. “The person using the card shouldn’t be the one who determines whether it is business or personal. From a legal point of view, there are red flags all over the place.”