Marco Rubio on Saturday released two years of previously undisclosed statements for a Republican Party of Florida American Express card, detailing about $7,200 in personal expenses he says he paid back.
Rubio’s presidential campaign characterized the disclosure of the records as a way to show the candidate has nothing to hide, amid criticism from Republican rivals and Democrats about the handling of his personal finances — and lingering questions from his previous refusal to release the statements to reporters.
“Marco paid his personal charges directly to American Express. The Republican Party of Florida did not pay for any of Marco’s personal expenses,” the campaign said in a statement. “Further, taxpayer funds were not used for any political or personal charges on the card.”
Over the past few days, presidential candidate Donald Trump declared spending on the card a “disaster.”
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Cards were given to several top GOP officials in Florida to be used in conjunction with party business, which includes travel, recruiting candidates and fundraising — activities that can produce large bills.
Among Rubio’s personal charges from 2005-06 — which were first reported Saturday by Politico — were $3,756.24 to Iberia Tiles in Miami on October 2006 for pavers, which Rubio first acknowledged in his 2012 political memoir, An American Son. (A GOP consultant had previously told reporters that Rubio disclosed the charge when asked about potential issues in his background as he ran for U.S. Senate.)
The AmEx statement for the following billing period shows an electronic payment covering that exact amount, which the campaign said shows Rubio immediately paid for mistakenly using his party card for his West Miami home-improvement project.
The other personal charges listed by the campaign include $1,745 for a hotel and car rental in Las Vegas for when Rubio extended a political trip in August 2005 to visit family, two auto repair expenses totaling $599.45 at Braman Honda in Miami in May and June of 2006, and $180 for a children’s sports activity in December 2005. All were repaid by Rubio and not the party, according to the campaign, though it is impossible to corroborate that from the AmEx statements because they don’t specify who made the payments.
In all, the personal expenses amounted to $7,243.74 out of the $64,777.82 charged to the card from January 2005-October 2006. Rubio had the party card through December 2008; over four years he charged more than $182,000 to AmEx, about $22,000 for personal expenses.
The new records show Rubio’s spending from the two years before he became speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. He spent far less in those years than he did as speaker, when he took on broader responsibilities as a party leader. That explains his stepped up political activities — but not his more frequent use of the party card for personal expenses.
By Rubio’s own accounting, he used it eight times for personal expenses from January 2005-October 2006. In the years that followed, through December 2008, he used it 65 more times for what he said were personal items.
The campaign did not indicate Saturday what those charges were.
The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times first reported in 2010 that Rubio billed the card for personal expenses ranging from a movie ticket to repairs to the family minivan to a four-day, $10,000 family reunion. Rubio also relied on the party card of his political adviser, Richard Corcoran, to pay for many of his political expenses. Some of Rubio’s personal expenses wound up on that card, too. Corcoran is now the incoming Florida House speaker (he’s backing Bush for president).
Rubio was one of about a half-dozen lawmakers given RPOF cards during years when the party was flush with cash. Questions over his AmEx card use were part of a larger controversy about excessive spending at the party that exploded in 2010 during the U.S. Senate race between Charlie Crist and Rubio.
After the Herald/Times revealed Rubio’s 2007-08 AmEx spending, Rubio declined to release the 2005-06 records, deeming them an internal party matter. That refusal added mystery to what the reports might contain but questions largely faded until Rubio entered the presidential race and faced a much higher level of scrutiny.
After the newspapers again asked for the missing records this year, in June and October, the campaign said it intended to make them public.
The 2005-06 charges ranged from small to large. On Dec. 29, 2005, for instance, Rubio spent $12.37 at an Original Latin American Cafeteria in Miami. On Dec. 31 of that year, Rubio charged $50.69 at a Miami Citgo station.
While Rubio has described some personal charges as a mistake — such as the Iberia Tiles flooring — he also seemed to think it was all right to use the card for personal expenses as long as he later paid the charge.
His campaign pointed to a 2010 statement from a state GOP spokeswoman who said, “The (Republican Party of Florida) American Express card is a corporate card and is meant to be used for business expenses, but if personal expenses are charged to the card, the Party trusts that individual cardholders will reimburse the Party for those expenses.”
But a 2010 independent audit of the card scandal commissioned by the party pointed to an RPOF “Employee Policies & Procedures Manual” that stated the cards were “for RPOF business use only.”