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Marco Rubio's quarter billion dollars of earmarks

Republican U.S Senate front-runner Marco Rubio brags on his website that he didn't officially request budget pork in his last four years as a leader in the Florida House.

But during Rubio's eight years in office -- including the final two when he was House speaker -- he unofficially helped push loads of hometown spending: $250 million, according to a Herald/Times analysis of little-known budget documents.

The budget items linked to Rubio from 2000 to 2008 are part of a list compiled yearly by the governor's office to track hometown spending.

Most of Rubio's budget items benefited his home county of Miami-Dade -- from a $50,000 grant sought for a Coral Gables park to $80 million for a University of Miami genomics project. A total of $25 million in requests were vetoed by the governor.

The amount of budget money connected to Rubio attests to his skill as a lawmaker, but also contrasts with his campaign image as a tight-fisted spending hawk crusading against ``earmarks'' that have plagued the budget process in Washington.

The budget items also shed light on times when Rubio's public job as a legislator dovetailed with his private interests.

Big government spending has emerged as a top issue for Republicans this election year, with Crist and Rubio battling over who spent more taxpayer money. The list shows that Crist didn't veto much from Rubio --just $3 million.

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