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Outcry over Rubio's AmEx card use prompt more calls for disclosure

Marco Rubio's routine use of a Republican Party of Florida credit card for personal expenses, while speaker of the Florida House, is bringing renewed calls for the party to disclose charges racked up by former and current elected officials.

Asked whether the party should release credit-card records to clear the air before the 2010 election, former state party chairman Tom Slade on Thursday said, ```Hell, yes.''

```We should not under any circumstances attempt to make this not totally transparent,'' Slade said. ``We've got to take a hit for it because we have mismanaged money that people gave us and used it for purposes they did not intend it to be used.''

Miami lobbyist and Rubio donor Ana Navarro said he should have released the card statements himself.

``Marco's chicken sandwich cost a lot less than Jim Greer's lobster dinners, but that does not mean the culture at the Republican Party does not need to change,'' said Navarro, referring to a $7.09 charge at a Chick-fil-A in Tallahassee. ``From top to bottom, people need to understand that one has to be extra conscientious in spending other people's money.'' Full story here.

But Rubio's campaign and other Republican Party leaders said Thursday the story should be about the leaked documents, not about whether they want the public to see how they manage donor money despite their promises of transparency.

Remember John Thrasher's attempt to blame "the liberal media" for the story when he was elected RPOF chair on Sunday? The attack the messenger approach is getting traction at least at the Associated Press -- maybe because it's easier than answering uncomfortable questions? Still unanswered is this:

If you can defend the use of your credit card for appropriate party-building activity during the time when the party was flush with cash, why not release the credit card statements and end the speculation that you have something to hide? Senate President Jeff Atwater agreed with that premise, then a Thrasher spokeswoman said they wouldn't be released.

Rubio, a U.S. Senate candidate, says he repaid all personal expenses to American Express in 2007 and 2008, amounting to $16,052. Records obtained by The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times show the personal expenses included a $134 trip to an upscale Miami barber that his GOP campaign rival, Gov. Charlie Crist, called ``pretty disturbing.''

The party picked up the rest of the $93,566 charges on Rubio's card, including nearly $4,000 in costs to repair his family minivan and rent a car for five weeks. Rubio said the minivan was damaged by parking attendants at a political event and on Thursday accused Crist of ``desperate smears.''