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Crist's hug, and Rubio's 'big, wet kiss'

Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen:

Marco Rubio's campaign to win the Republican Senate primary revolves around the now-famous hug that Gov. Charlie Crist shared with Barack Obama during a presidential visit to Fort Myers last year. Now Rubio, the darling of Tea Party conservatives, is getting uncomfortably squeezed himself.

Last week, a committee of the Florida House of Representatives put Rubio's name on a list of witnesses who could be subpoenaed to testify about the Ray Sansom scandal. Sansom, a fellow Republican from Destin, was Rubio's handpicked budget chief while Rubio served as the House speaker in 2007-2008. Sansom used his leverage to route more than $35 million in public funds to little Northwest Florida
State College.The most flagrant waste was $6 million to construct a 30,000-foot airplane hangar for one of Sansom's pals and campaign donors, a developer named Jay Odom. Sansom liked to fly on Odom's plane and bill the state GOP for the ride.Florida TaxWatch flagged the airport project as a ``turkey,'' but it sailed through. Crist chose not to veto it.The scam unraveled soon after Sansom took over the powerful House speaker's post from Rubio. It was discovered that on that same day Sansom had become a vice president of Northwest State at a salary of $110,000.

It smelled like a payoff, and prosecutors perked up. Samson, who eventually resigned as House speaker, was indicted for official misconduct and is now awaiting trial. Once the story broke, Northwest Florida State officials insisted the airplane hangar was really ``an emergency-training education'' facility where students could attend classes, presumably while perched on the wings of private jets.

You can understand why Rubio isn't thrilled to talk about his old pal. It was only a year ago that Rubio said Samson should stay on as speaker, and called him ``one of the best people I ever interacted with in the legislative process.'' That statement raises a serious question about Rubio's judgment: What judgment?

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