April 30, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio went to bat for now-shuttered for-profit college

From Bloomberg News:

Last summer, Sen. Marco Rubio asked the U.S. Department of Education to “demonstrate leniency” toward Corinthian Colleges by permitting the wealthy for-profit company to continue accessing millions of dollars in federal financial aid while it was cooperating with a federal investigation.

Ten months later, the company shuttered its remaining 28 campuses, instantly displacing some 16,000 students just days after it was fined $30 million by the Department of Education for a scheme involving “confirmed cases of misrepresentation of job placement rates” for as many as 947 students. The decision to close shop came after years of federal and state investigations into the company.

The top-tier Florida Republican presidential candidate had made his plea in a letter — obtained by Bloomberg Politics — dated June 20, 2014, and addressed to Jim Shelton, the deputy secretary of education, and Ted Mitchell, the undersecretary for post-secondary education.

“It has been brought to my attention that the U.S. Department of Education has recently placed extreme financial constraints on Corinthian Colleges, Inc. by restricting the company’s timely access to federal financial aid. It is my understanding the Department of Education has requested extensive documents be provided by Corinthian Colleges for review, and Corinthian has acted in good faith to try to provide these documents as expeditiously as possible,” Rubio, R-Fla., wrote.

More here.

When Marco Rubio and Grover Norquist disagreed on taxes

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio laid it down this week on Instagram. “I will oppose and veto ANY and ALL efforts to increase taxes.”

The declaration followed his re-upping of Grover Norquist’s tax “Pledge,” which Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform celebrated in a news release. Rubio had signed it twice before, as a state legislator and U.S. Senate candidate.

Rubio,  now running for president, is firm on the tax issue but not absolute.

Take this example in which Rubio, who’s signed the pledge, looks more anti-pledge than Jeb Bush, who refuses to sign the pledge. Grover makes a cameo.

In 2006, then state Rep. Rubio voted for a bill that aimed to increase by $2 the daily “surcharge” on rental cars. It would have asked voters to approve the hike, so Rubio and others who supported it could argue they weren’t raising taxes.

But that’s how Gov. Bush saw it, and Norquist as well.

“This rental car tax idea is just the newest attempt in a series of efforts by Florida’s local transit agencies and a number of counties to win legislative approval for revenue-raisers,” Norquist wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “After successive efforts to get approval for an additional tax on car owners have failed, the latest effort focuses on an idea that some think will be an easy sell: making tourists foot the bill.”

Americans for Tax Reform even ran a TV ad against the idea and Norquist met with Bush. In June 2006,Bush vetoed the bill.

“These taxes will be paid disparately by tourists visiting Florida, consequently creating taxation without representation on a large scale,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “Philosophically, I cannot support this."

This week we reached out to Americans for Tax Reform for comment. A spokesman did not respond.

Overall Rubio has a strong record on opposing taxes. But he did support increasing property taxes for schools. PolitiFact Florida explains.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 29, 2015

Marco Rubio says he is more experienced and qualified than Barack Obama was when he ran

Marco Rubio focused quite a bit on his past to make his case for a future presidency during a recent visit to Iowa.

During an interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board, the Republican touted his accomplishments to counter criticisms he is still a first-term senator, just as President Barack Obama was when he was elected president.

"I certainly feel I’m running for office with much more experience and qualifications than Barack Obama had when he ran. When Barack Obama ran for president, he was basically a state legislator from Illinois that had served in the Senate for two years," Rubio said April 25. "I, on the other hand, have been a legislative leader from the third-largest state in the country who has served in the Senate four and a half years, and have invested a significant amount of time in national security issues, particularly intelligence."

So is Rubio right in saying his résumé is much more impressive than Obama’s was almost a decade ago? We’ll check both candidates’ curriculum vitae.

Let’s start with an executive summary: Rubio, if he’s elected, will have spent about 17 years in politics and 19 years working overall. Obama had about 12 years in politics and 20 years of overall political and work experience. When you dig into the details, though, the differences between the two men seem fairly marginal.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found and see Rubio's Truth-O-Meter record.

April 28, 2015

AP: Marco Rubio hopes Japan’s Abe addresses ‘comfort women' rift

From the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES - Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is warning that China is exploiting a rift between Japan and South Korea over World War II “comfort women,” and he hopes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the sensitive dispute in his address to Congress.

Abe has faced demands that he use his U.S. trip this week to speak to Japan’s use of tens of thousands of sex slaves to serve Japanese troops during the war. As many as 200,000 “comfort women” from Korea, China and other countries were forced into sex slavery.

South Korea has demanded an apology.

In Los Angeles on Tuesday, Rubio said that while Japan has expressed regret, “obviously something is missing” because it hasn’t gone far enough for survivors.

The Florida senator is in California raising campaign money.

Marco Rubio signs no tax hikes pledge (that Jeb Bush has refused)

via @learyreports

He signed it as a Florida House speaker. He signed it as a U.S. Senate candidate.

Now Marco Rubio, presidential candidate, has signed Grover Norquist's "Pledge" again.

"By signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people, Senator Rubio continues to protect American taxpayers against higher taxes," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "Senator Rubio understands that government should be reformed so that it takes and spends less of the taxpayers' money, and will oppose tax increases that paper over and continue the failures of the past."

PolitiFact Florida determined that Rubio has, in fact, supported tax increases.

During the 2012 presidential election every Republican candidate signed the pledge, except Jon Huntsman. Norquist can count on at least one candidate refusing to sign it this time, Jeb Bush.

“If Governor Bush decides to move forward, he will not sign any pledges circulated by lobbying groups,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said earlier this year. “His record on tax cuts is clear. He didn’t raise taxes.”

Norquist, who says tax increases under George H.W. Bush's cost him a second term, has become a major Jeb Bush basher. But he wasn't always critical. In 2006, Norquist praised Bush as an "ice breaker," and said he should run for president.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

PolitiFact looks at Jeb Bush's attack on Barack Obama and the use of U.S. power

There’s little question that President Barack Obama has faced a rocky foreign-policy landscape during his tenure. But is he philosophically opposed to having the United States take a leading role in the world?

That’s what former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said on the stump. Bush is expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

In a speech at the New Hampshire Republican Party Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H., on April 17, 2015, Bush started out talking about how to make the American economy work better:

"The question that we have in front of us is, are we capable of making disruption our friend, or will it overwhelm us? And that requires the leadership to fix a few big, complex things. None of this is going to be possible, unless we restore a sense of security in the lives of Americans, a sense of security that is based on American leadership in the world.

"This is the first president in the post-World War II era that does not believe that America's presence in the world as a leader and America's power in the world is a force for good. I do, and I hope you do as well."

Bush’s comments that Obama "does not believe" that "America’s power in the world is a force for good" caught our attention. We thought we remembered Obama making high-profile comments expressing just the opposite.

We took a look at Obama’s words and found a number of speeches in which he said something very different than what Bush indicated. We’re not putting this claim on the Truth-O-Meter now, but we will be monitoring campaign rhetoric along these lines to see if it sticks to the facts.

See what Louis Jacobson and Katharina Fiedler of PolitiFact found.

For Marco Rubio, personal finances presented an opportunity and a curse

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Marco Rubio nearly quit politics.

He was so broke in 2001 that just as he began his ascent in the Florida House, he and his wife had to move in with her mother. Rubio decided to leave Tallahassee and practice law full-time.

He got in his car to think and wound up at Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables, where he had gotten married three years earlier. He knelt to pray. “Why had God allowed me to come so far only to let me fail?” he recounted in a 2012 memoir.

“I imagined telling my children someday that I had once been the majority whip of the Florida House but had lost my job and had to leave politics to make a living. … I left the church still worried, but resigned to accept whatever happened. On my way back to my mother-in-law’s house, my cellphone rang.”

A headhunter had a lead on a job at a Broward County law firm. The $93,000 salary allowed Rubio to move his family into their own home. And race ahead with his political career.

As a Republican presidential candidate, 43-year-old Rubio is portraying himself as someone who shares the struggles and aspirations of many Americans. It’s not just a line when he talks about crushing college loans; he has lived it. He has felt the squeeze of a mortgage and providing for four children.

Yet Rubio’s story also raises old criticisms that he has lacked personal fiscal discipline, got special financial favors and abused campaign funds. It reveals a career politician’s income growing in step with his rising clout in Tallahassee, including a $300,000 a year job at a law firm that arrived as he locked in the position as House speaker.

More here.

April 27, 2015

Here's the invitation to candidate Marco Rubio's first Miami fundraiser


Miami inviteNineteen days after declaring his 2016 Republican presidential candidacy, Sen. Marco Rubio will once again headline a political event in Miami: his first hometown campaign fundraiser.

On Sunday, longtime Rubio backers will gather at the Coral Gables home of Claudia and Bernie Navarro -- where Rubio's friends and family met the day before his April 13 announcement -- and collect checks for the expensive race.

Organizing the reception are Irma and Norman Braman, the billionaire couple expected to pour a five-figure sum into Rubio's campaign, as well as Rubio backers Marile and Jorge Luis Lopez; former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner; Lourdes Castillo and Leoncio de la Pena, and Ronit and Steve Waserstein.

To be an event "chairman," donors must raise (or contribute) $25,000. That number drops down to $2,700 to "host" and $1,000 to snap photos with Rubio.

Marco Rubio visits California, home to climate change group that calls him out as 'denier'

via @learyreports

With Marco Rubio in California for fundraising Monday and Tuesday, an environmental group is seeking to call attention to his doubts about man's contribution to climate change.

"Rubio and his fellow Republican science-deniers are wrong. We know that we don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a strong economy—and California serves as a model for the nation of how we can address climate change and prosper while doing it," NextGen Climate said in a release, offering to "meet" with Rubio and educate him.

"It’s no surprise that Rubio is a climate change denier, given that he is trying to win financial support from Big Oil and special interests, like the Koch Brothers. ... It’s time to start accepting the facts and lay out a meaningful plan to tackle climate change. Presidential hopefuls need to demonstrate bold leadership and tell voters their plan for achieving a healthier and more prosperous clean energy future for our children and the next generation."

Rubio has said the climate is always changing but he doubts scientific evidence that humans are contributing. He said on Face the Nation recently that a cap-and-trade style program to curb emissions would wreck the economy. PolitiFact evaluated that claim and found it False.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 25, 2015

Marco Rubio: Governors aren't ready for presidency on Day One

From Bloomberg:

Governors running for the presidency including, potentially, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush are inherently inferior because they lack the foreign policy experience held by members of Congress, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said Saturday in Iowa.

“Governors can certainly read about foreign policy in briefings, and meet with experts, but there is no way they'll be ready on day one to manage U.S. foreign policy because the learning curve alone would take a number of years, and you see that reflected in the history of the presidency,” the Republican presidential candidate told reporters and editors for the Des Moines Register.

What about Ronald Reagan, a former governor and Republican icon?

“Ronald Reagan was someone, first of all, that had spent a number of years talking about foreign policy, more than a dozen years after he left the governorship of the state of California, he dedicated to foreign policy,” Rubio said. “He also faced a pretty straightforward threat, and that was the expansion of Soviet-style Communism at the expense of U.S. influence.” Although, Rubio added, Reagan “faced some other threats like the Iranian hostage crisis.”

More here.