THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: What Will America Learn About Marco Rubio’s Petty Corruption?
When John McCain picked Sarah Palin to run with him, we quickly learned that her teenage daughter was pregnant — and then even more stories started piling up. What will the rest of America learn the day after Mitt Romney selects his vice-presidential nominee? What are the skeletons in the closets his team is prying open as they try to find the best debate opponent for Joe Biden? To answer those questions, we bring you The Day After Tomorrow, a new series previewing the veep scandals everyone may soon be talking about.
UPDATE: According to reports, Rubio is not being vetted as a potential running mate by the Romney campaign.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been among the eager front-runners waiting to be picked as Mitt Romney’s running mate almost since the day that he was elected in 2010. He’s young, charismatic, admired by conservatives, and many Republicans hope that his status as the most prominent Hispanic member of their party will help close Romney’s 40 point deficit among Latino voters.
But a scandal in Rubio’s past would make him a very risky choice. If Romney does choose Rubio as his running mate, then a deep dive into questions of corruption would instantly ensue. In short, Marco Rubio has shady friends and an unfortunate habit of confusing his wallet with the public purse.
During Rubio’s U.S. Senate bid, the Tampa Bay Timesreported that Rubio had used a Florida Republican Party credit card for over $100,000 of personal purchases.
Rubio billed the party for more than $100,000 during the two years he served as House speaker, according to credit card statements obtained by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald. The charges included repairs to the family minivan, grocery bills, plane tickets for his wife and purchases from retailers ranging from a wine store near his home to Apple’s online store. Rubio also charged the party for dozens of meals during the annual lawmaking session in Tallahassee, even though he received taxpayer subsidies for his meals.
Rubio said the billings all related to party business — the minivan, for example, was damaged by a valet at a political function — and that he repaid the party for about $16,000 in personal expenses.
In his defense, Rubio has offered the lame excuse that “sometimes, it was just a mistake, you know, literally just reached for the wrong card.”
“I shouldn’t have done it that way,” Rubio admitted in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. “It was lesson learned.”
The credit card spending isn’t the only controversy over Rubio’s finances, however.
In 2003, Rubio opened a Committee of Continuous Existence (CCE,) which is an organization that was originally designed for huge groups like unions to raise and spend funds without listing members. Eliza Gray reported in The New Republic that Rubio used his CCE to raise more than $200,000, which was spent in a variety of questionable ways:
Throughout 2003 and 2004, Rubio’s committee periodically dispensed money to Rubio and his relatives, including $7,000 to himself and $5,700 to his wife to reimburse her for meals, gas, and office supplies. Because of the loose reporting requirements for CCEs, it was hard to tell whether these expenses were legitimate or not. In March 2010, The Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times reported that Rubio had “failed to disclose $34,000 in expenses—including [the] $7,000 he paid himself.” A Rubio spokesman, Todd Harris, conceded to the paper that Rubio had made a mistake.
Were Rubio to be selected, he would also have to answer questions about his connections to Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), a close personal friend. Rivera has been the subject of multiple investigations for official misconduct, unlawful compensation, fraud, and theft, and was named by the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
Still, Rubio — whose relationship with Rivera has been described as “one step below blood” — has refused to distance himself from the Miami Congressman, holding fundraisers for him and defending him in the press.
The inevitable media frenzy over Rubio’s personal finances could become especially damaging for Romney, who has faced widespread criticism for his refusal to release more of his tax returns. If Romney wants to avoid turning the spotlight back on his Swiss bank account and unreported returns, then selecting Marco Rubio may be unacceptably risky.