Marco Rubio’s use of a Republican Party of Florida American Express card is only part of the story.
Over the course of his rise in politics, the Tampa Bay Times and partner Miami Herald chronicled his background and controversies.
The most detailed accounting of Rubio’s AmEx charges is this report from February 2010 that showed how the card was used for groceries, repairs to the family minivan and at a music equipment store.
"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 at the time. "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." Full story here.
Rubio used two political committees, which raised about $600,000, to fuel his political ambitions.
He spent big on consultants and travel while giving little to candidates, the ostensible purpose of the committees. Rubio failed to disclose $34,000 in expenses — including $7,000 he paid himself — for one of the committees in 2003 and 2004, as required by state law. One committee paid relatives nearly $14,000 for what was incorrectly described to the IRS as "courier fees" and listed a nonexistent address for one of them. Another committee paid $5,700 to his wife, who was listed as the treasurer, much of it for "gas and meals." He billed more than $51,000 in unidentified "travel expenses'' to three different credit cards — nearly one-quarter of the committee's entire haul. Charges are not required to be itemized, but other lawmakers detailed almost all of their committee expenses. Full story here.
Rubio’s AmEx rang up $10,000 to the AmEx for a family reunion in Thomasville, Georgia, on the day he was sworn in as speaker.
He has said a travel agent used the wrong card and that he got checks from family members to cover the expense. But the story is murky. Full story here.
The lavish spending extended to Rubio’s chief of staff (and now incoming House speaker) Richard Corcoran.
During the five months of his $175,000-a-year job in Rubio's office, Corcoran continued spending tens of thousands of dollars in party donations for a slew of expenses, including dinners with his boss, personalized chairs for Republican leaders and $4,600 for electronics, according to American Express statements obtained by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald. Full story here.
Rubio's personal finances have created an opportunity and a curse, as we detailed in this article from earlier this year.
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. Full story here.
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times