U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio charged grocery bills, repairs to the family minivan and purchases from a wine store less than a mile from his West Miami home to the Republican Party of Florida while he was speaker of the Florida House, according to records obtained by the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald.
Rubio said Wednesday that he paid for all personal expenses billed to an American Express card given to him by the party to use from 2005 to 2008, when he left public office. The rest of the charges, he said, were legitimate party expenses.
Those expenses include a $1,000 charge at Braman Honda in Miami for repairs to the family car in January 2008. 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. The party also paid $2,976 for him to rent a car in Miami for five weeks.
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."
But 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," she said when asked about the party's policy.
IRS rules for political parties, which are tax-exempt, require that their donations go exclusively toward influencing elections.
Records show Rubio sent payments to American Express totaling $13,900 for his personal expenses during his tenure as House speaker. But those payments were not made monthly. He made no contributions to the bill during one six-month stretch in 2007, the records show.
Charges covered by the party as political expenses include:
• $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 groceries 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, since they also had access to the credit card.
Now at this point we all know that this kind of stuff probably won't hurt Rubio with the teabagging GOP base. They don't care about hypocrisy from their candidates, they only care about at least a vocal adherence to their right wing ideology. As long as Rubio continues to paint himself as anti tax, anti Obama and anti spending, he will still probably give Charlie Crist all he can handle in the GOP primary.
But moderates and independents are a different breed. Rubio living high off the hog with his GOP credit card while preaching fiscal responsibility,reducing spending and "shared responsibility" is not likely to sit well with the majority of Florida's general election voters. As progressives we have to continue to hit Rubio and Crist hard over these kinds of issues because whether anyone thinks Congressman Meek has a chance in the Senate race here in Florida, he is a MAJOR upgrade over both of those folks.