Rubio Mini-scandal: Much Ado About Nothing?
The Miami Herald is reporting a story, “Rubio Charged Personal Expenses on GOP Card.” The dust up is about personal expenses “improperly charged” to the Florida GOP when Rubio was Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Included in the story is a list of items charged to an American Express Corporate Card that was issued by the Florida Republican Party to Marco Rubio, a Republican primary candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida.
The only important question: “Were the items only charged to the card, or were they paid for by the Party?” Is there a difference? Yes. Personal expenses intentionally paid for with campaign money is a violation of federal law. If on the other hand, personal expenses were charged to American Express but paid for by Rubio (or the Party was reimbursed during the same reporting period), then campaign funds were not misappropriated.
Now, not everyone knows how American Express (Amex) Corporate Cards operate. A primer: You charge stuff as you go (business or personal). You go online to their site and categorize your charges as personal or business. If it’s business you provide all the pertinent information for your accounting department. Before you log off you can see the business total and the personal total. You can do this as often as you like before the end of the billing cycle. At the end of the cycle, Amex sends a bill for the business expenses to the corporate entity (in this case the FL GOP) and sends a separate bill to the card holder for the personal expenses (they run a credit check before issuing the card). That’s it.
Even if the expenses were reconciled after the bill was paid by the Party, as long as Rubio repaid them, no harm no foul. If the FL GOP has a policy against personal use of the card, well then some one should have said something at the time. To go back now, when it seems there was no actual violation of campaign law, and make a big deal is obviously for intra-party political purposes.
The culprit for this would have to be the Crist campaign, hoping to save its candidate from losing. So, a message to Gov. Crist, his campaign and supporters: Don’t win the battle to lose the war. Obviously, the people are skeptical of you. If you use these tactics to win the GOP primary, there will be a third-party candidate. You and that person will both lose, as will Florida and the American people. Fight a clean fight. If you win… great. We’ll support you, grudgingly maybe, but support you we will. However, things like this just undermine people’s belief in the system and the Party as a vehicle for reform. Something to think about.