April 22, 2010

It looks like Marco Rubio has a bit of a PR problem. A couple of problems, actually. It seems he may have spent some Florida Republican Party funds on himself and his family for personal things instead of paying attention to the laws and limits on what he's allowed to bill on his expense account.

Marco Rubio's high-flying Senate campaign hit its first significant turbulence today as the former state House speaker defended using a Republican Party of Florida credit card for more than $100,000 in travel and other expenses from 2006 to 2008.

Rubio said the $109,618 he charged the party was for legitimate expenses he incurred while traversing Florida to raise money for the GOP, support its candidates and promote property tax reform. He also billed the state party for his trip to the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis after being asked to speak at "several events" as a representative of Florida's delegation, a Rubio spokesman said.

Well, that sounds about right. In fact, compared to some campaign disclosures I've seen this week, it might even be on the low end. Except for this, anyway:

In addition to the expenses Rubio charged to the GOP, Rubio said he used the party credit card for $16,053 in personal expenses that he paid for from his own pocket.

Yeah, not so much, because there's this:

The GOP also paid $1,000 to help repair Rubio's minivan after it was damaged by parking attendants at a Republican function, Burgos said.

The rules for party expense accounts really aren't that tough: If you submit hotel, travel and meal receipts, they have to be tied to an official party event. If you purchase supplies or equipment, they need to belong to the party, not your kids.

If your van is sideswiped in valet parking while you're attending an official party event, that expense needs to be submitted to your insurance company as an official claim. It doesn't get to go on the party American Express card. That's part of the cost of doing business in this free enterprise world of ours.

Rubio's status as the newest darling of the far right and teabag set earned him a place at CPACs podium, where he shared his naked hopes and dreams. I re-read his speech tonight with an eye to his alleged use of the GOP dime. The irony, it drips:

They [Liberals] think that the free-enterprise system is unfair, that a few people make a lot of money, and the rest of us get left behind. They believe that the only way business can make its money is by exploiting its workers and its customers.

Or...exploiting one's sponsor.

Our campaign finance system bites, and no group is better at gaming it than the Republicans. If former State House Speaker Sansom hadn't been quite so greedy, it would likely have been business as usual in Florida and just about everywhere else.

I downloaded Rubio's federal campaign disclosures for his race against Crist to see what spending was taking place there. Unfortunately I can't link it up here because it was faxed or scanned instead of entered as an electronic record. Still, there were some interesting tidbits. I don't really know what they represent, but they don't feel like campaign expenses, necessarily.

  • $1,500 "registration fee" to St. John Neumann School
  • Sandy Hook Fish & Rib House: $2340 (Travel)
  • George P. Bush [sic]: $265.80 (Travel)
  • Jess Yescalis: $3,789.79 (Travel)

These are the ones that jumped out at me after a few minutes. While they may be perfectly justifiable and completely in line with activities of his campaign, they seemed high to me, and I don't really see how the school fee fits in there at all.

I also took a look at the Florida Republican Party March 31st Federal report. On January 12th, $34,756.78 was paid to American Express. Here are some of the expenses charged to the party by the cardholder. I don't know who held or used the card, because the report doesn't match it up with a person.

  • VIP Travel & Tours: $550
  • Amazon.com: $1,396.69
  • Citrus Center Parking: $219.84 (how long was that car parked there?)
  • Dell Computer: $6,087.75
  • Apple Computer Store: $10,329.75
  • Lenovo: $1,878.72
  • Delta Airlines: $4,246.60 (First-class, anyone?)
  • Other miscellaneous items like tolls, miscellaneous air travel tickets, pizza, rental cars, and 1-800-Flowers.com make up the difference.

Sounds like a geek's paradise there, doesn't it? Whatever it is, it doesn't seem particularly...conservative.

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