The Imperfect Rubio

Marco Rubio has become the latest politician of whom many have projected their own hopes and dreams for a new type of leadership, but a St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald report released over the weekend establishes a pattern of behavior that demonstrates he just might be more of the same.

Marco Rubio was barely solvent as a young lawmaker climbing his way to the top post in the Florida House, but special interest donations and political perks allowed him to spend big money with little scrutiny.

About $600,000 in contributions was stowed in two inconspicuous political committees controlled by Rubio, now the Republican front-runner for the U.S. Senate, and his wife. A St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald analysis of the expenses found:

  • Rubio failed to disclose $34,000 in expenses - including $7,000 he paid himself - for one of the committees in 2003 and 2004, as required by state law.
  • One committee paid relatives nearly $14,000 for what was incorrectly described to the IRS as "courier fees" and listed a nonexistent address for one of them. Another committee paid $5,700 to his wife, who was listed as the treasurer, much of it for "gas and meals."
  • He billed more than $51,000 in unidentified "travel expenses'' to three different credit cards - nearly one-quarter of the committee's entire haul. Charges are not required to be itemized, but other lawmakers detailed almost all of their committee expenses.

From there, the report continues to detail Rubio's usage of other people's money via PACs he had formed and credit cards he was given access to by the GOP while he was as a Florida State Representative up until 2008-his final year in office. That year he earned $414,000, but had more than $900,000 in debts, and reported a net worth of just $8,400. If in fact throughout his legislative career, the majority of his earnings had gone towards servicing his debts, that would explain why he heavily relied on other sources of money to support his lifestyle.

Thus far, Camp Rubio has no legitimate explanation for his past behavior.

Rubio Campaign Adviser Todd Harris has been performing his best imitation of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, claiming that any wrongs committed would be righted-conveniently after they've been exposed-and rationalizing his boss's behavior by proclaiming, "This is not taxpayer money we're talking about." He's right; Rubio didn't abuse taxpayer money, just GOP money, but that still causes a problem on two fronts: one, election laws call for party credit cards to only be used for expenses towards elections, and two, individuals who donated money to the party didn't do so Rubio could whip out the party's credit card whenever he needed to place an order at Chick-Fil-A or pay his mechanic for servicing the family's van-as documented in a Miami Herald report last month.

Moreover, Rubio wasn't exactly forthcoming during an interview last week on the Fox News network with Greta Van Susteren. When asked directly if he had ever used a credit card belonging to another person or organization for personal expenses, he stated he had not, then claimed he had, but only for a "few" items and he had paid those expenses back, but then deflected going any further, by saying this isn't what the election is about.

Rubio's correct, the Florida Senatorial Election of 2010 is not about his usage of OPM, but the issue here is that he has campaigned on a platform of being a new-breed politician, who's aligned with the Tea Party Movement, and the best candidate for the job because he's a Washington outsider. Unfortunately for him, funneling money to himself and relatives via PACs, abusing his access to party credit cards, and engaging in half-truths and double talk when asked to explain his actions, put's him on par with the politicians we already have in Washington.

Rubio's behavior is unfortunate-not to mention incredibly amateurish-and comes at an inopportune time. Governor Charlie Crist-who's done plenty of bumbling and stumbling of his own-has already attached Rubio to Ray Sansom, a former Florida State Speaker of the House, who also abused his GOP credit card and resigned his post earlier this month in the midst of a pending ethics trial.

So where do we go from here?

Rubio's conduct is el elefante en el cuarto-the elephant in the room-many on the right don't seem to want to talk about because Rubio is a Latino who is young, experienced, and has the potential to help advance conservatism to a level that would garner him the title "The Republican Obama".  But I imagine that if he were an appointee to the president's administration, he'd have a hell of a time getting confirmed in the aftermath of these revelations.

That doesn't mean he still can't be a shining star on the Right, but it's become apparent he's not perfect and more needs to be found out about Rubio before he's championed further.

J.C. Arenas is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and welcomes your comments at jcarenas.com
Marco Rubio has become the latest politician of whom many have projected their own hopes and dreams for a new type of leadership, but a St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald report released over the weekend establishes a pattern of behavior that demonstrates he just might be more of the same.

Marco Rubio was barely solvent as a young lawmaker climbing his way to the top post in the Florida House, but special interest donations and political perks allowed him to spend big money with little scrutiny.

About $600,000 in contributions was stowed in two inconspicuous political committees controlled by Rubio, now the Republican front-runner for the U.S. Senate, and his wife. A St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald analysis of the expenses found:

  • Rubio failed to disclose $34,000 in expenses - including $7,000 he paid himself - for one of the committees in 2003 and 2004, as required by state law.
  • One committee paid relatives nearly $14,000 for what was incorrectly described to the IRS as "courier fees" and listed a nonexistent address for one of them. Another committee paid $5,700 to his wife, who was listed as the treasurer, much of it for "gas and meals."
  • He billed more than $51,000 in unidentified "travel expenses'' to three different credit cards - nearly one-quarter of the committee's entire haul. Charges are not required to be itemized, but other lawmakers detailed almost all of their committee expenses.

From there, the report continues to detail Rubio's usage of other people's money via PACs he had formed and credit cards he was given access to by the GOP while he was as a Florida State Representative up until 2008-his final year in office. That year he earned $414,000, but had more than $900,000 in debts, and reported a net worth of just $8,400. If in fact throughout his legislative career, the majority of his earnings had gone towards servicing his debts, that would explain why he heavily relied on other sources of money to support his lifestyle.

Thus far, Camp Rubio has no legitimate explanation for his past behavior.

Rubio Campaign Adviser Todd Harris has been performing his best imitation of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, claiming that any wrongs committed would be righted-conveniently after they've been exposed-and rationalizing his boss's behavior by proclaiming, "This is not taxpayer money we're talking about." He's right; Rubio didn't abuse taxpayer money, just GOP money, but that still causes a problem on two fronts: one, election laws call for party credit cards to only be used for expenses towards elections, and two, individuals who donated money to the party didn't do so Rubio could whip out the party's credit card whenever he needed to place an order at Chick-Fil-A or pay his mechanic for servicing the family's van-as documented in a Miami Herald report last month.

Moreover, Rubio wasn't exactly forthcoming during an interview last week on the Fox News network with Greta Van Susteren. When asked directly if he had ever used a credit card belonging to another person or organization for personal expenses, he stated he had not, then claimed he had, but only for a "few" items and he had paid those expenses back, but then deflected going any further, by saying this isn't what the election is about.

Rubio's correct, the Florida Senatorial Election of 2010 is not about his usage of OPM, but the issue here is that he has campaigned on a platform of being a new-breed politician, who's aligned with the Tea Party Movement, and the best candidate for the job because he's a Washington outsider. Unfortunately for him, funneling money to himself and relatives via PACs, abusing his access to party credit cards, and engaging in half-truths and double talk when asked to explain his actions, put's him on par with the politicians we already have in Washington.

Rubio's behavior is unfortunate-not to mention incredibly amateurish-and comes at an inopportune time. Governor Charlie Crist-who's done plenty of bumbling and stumbling of his own-has already attached Rubio to Ray Sansom, a former Florida State Speaker of the House, who also abused his GOP credit card and resigned his post earlier this month in the midst of a pending ethics trial.

So where do we go from here?

Rubio's conduct is el elefante en el cuarto-the elephant in the room-many on the right don't seem to want to talk about because Rubio is a Latino who is young, experienced, and has the potential to help advance conservatism to a level that would garner him the title "The Republican Obama".  But I imagine that if he were an appointee to the president's administration, he'd have a hell of a time getting confirmed in the aftermath of these revelations.

That doesn't mean he still can't be a shining star on the Right, but it's become apparent he's not perfect and more needs to be found out about Rubio before he's championed further.

J.C. Arenas is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and welcomes your comments at jcarenas.com