Nothingburger Demolished: Marco Rubio Releases All Credit Card Payment Information

rubio on stage sm

[mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ], as promised, released all his AmEx bills from his time in the Florida legislature and the Washington Post and POLITICO find nothing amiss.

Stunned?

Yeah, me, too.

“People need to understand what they’re talking about. It wasn’t a credit card. It was an American Express charge card secured under my personal credit in conjunction with the [Republican] Party. Bills would be mailed to me at home. Every month I would go through it. If there was a personal expense, I paid it. If it was a Party expense, the Party paid it. Now I recognize in hindsight I would do it different to avoid confusion. But the Republican Party never paid a single personal expense of mine — personal expense. This is unfortunately when this was initially reported in the press, it was made into something bigger than it actually is. I wouldn’t do it the same way again to avoid all these stories but the Republican Party never paid any of my personal expenses.”  

— Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), interview on “Good Morning America,” Nov. 4, 2015

Rubio’s handling of his state Republican Party-issued corporate card is under renewed scrutiny, as he emerges as a leading candidate for the GOP nomination. In a recent appearance on “Good Morning America,” Rubio addressed questions over his corporate card usage.

His answer gave us pause. His explanation seemed to rebut many of the claims we have read in recent media coverage of the credit card controversy. Was he rewriting history? We decided to dig into his explanation and the series of events that unfolded since the story broke in February 2010. And we found, for the most part, his story matches up.

Mind you, this is the Washington Post “Fact Checker” group. These are the same people who rated a Mitt Romney claim “True but False.” They go on to look at the salient issues.

He says it wasn’t a credit card, but a charge card. In fact, a charge card is a type of a credit card, but he’s on point drawing a technical difference between the two. Rubio has used the term “credit card” in his 2012 memoir in reference to his corporate card charges, and it is interesting that he has begun making this distinction in interviews. (His aide told the New York Times that Rubio had adopted a colloquial term for the card for his book.)

Rubio also says the Republican Party “never paid a single personal expense of mine — personal expense.” Notice the emphasis here. There was an instance when Rubio did repay the party for an expense that should not have been charged to the party; he double-billed the party and the state for airline tickets for state business. So, that is one example where he repaid the party rather than paying American Express directly, as he often notes. But technically, it was not for a personal purpose.

We don’t make a judgment call on whether Rubio should have made personal charges, or whether some of the charges the party paid for should have been considered as “party business.” But what readers should remember is that Rubio’s total charges — about $160,000 total on the corporate card — were relatively small compared to other state party officials who ran up $500,000, even $1.3 million, on their party cards. And although other presidential hopefuls, and even media outlets, keep pointing to the February 2010 news coverage that revealed Rubio’s personal charges, subsequent reports by the independent auditor and Florida Ethics Commission are worth reading, because they tell a fuller picture of how the saga unfolded.

Even as I was writing this, POLITICO, posted an analysis of the AmEx bills released today. (I’m assuming this is true because POLITICO is chock to the brim with sociopathic liars but because the story is favorable to a Republican, I am using it.) It concurs that there is no there there in the AmEx bills:

Marco Rubio must have something to hide. There was a reason the presidential candidate wasn’t letting people see his long-secret Republican Party of Florida American Express bills. He spent too lavishly and frivolously, and used his party card for personal business. It was, Donald Trump said, a political “disaster” waiting to happen.

That was the conventional wisdom and hype in Florida political circle for years.

On Saturday, Rubio released his 2005 and 2006 statements that showed he only spent $65,000 on party business. That’s far less than other Republican leaders who succeeded him in the Florida House. And it’s just about half of the $117,000 Rubio himself charged on his party credit card after he became Florida House speaker in 2007-08.

The release shows he did make eight personal purchases on the card – a practice for which he has been criticized by rivals — but his campaign insisted that he reimbursed American Express $7,200 for them.

The newly released stack of charge-card statements provide more details about one expense that has nagged Rubio since it was first reported in 2010. At the time, Florida Republican consultant Chris Ingram reported that Rubio confided to him that he mistakenly paid for “flooring” with his Republican Party of Florida card. Rubio and his campaign refused to confirm or deny the story, only saying he paid AmEx directly for personal expenses. Rubio in his 2012 autobiography then acknowledged that “I pulled the wrong card from my wallet to pay for pavers.”

Rubio bought the $3,765.24 in pavers from Iberia Tiles on Oct. 15, 2006 in Miami, the credit card statements show. A statement the following month shows AmEx received a payment for that exact amount, thereby proving Rubio paid it after his error, said Harris.
“No one was looking. But he caught it. And he rectified it at the time,” Harris said, calling Ingram “bitter” because the campaign didn’t hire him in 2010.

In another case, involving a $5,000 week-long hotel stay at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Harris points to credit card statements that, he said, show Rubio personally paid for 30 percent of the bill to reflect the fact that part of his trip was personal.

 

What is instructive in this is at least two major Bush supporters are quoted in the story and they both support Rubio on this issue. What else is instructive is that Rubio released extensive back-up documentation for his AmEx bill showing his payments for personal expenses. This reflects a level of diligence that is refreshing in light of everything else we are seeing in this race.

This is one of those things that is going to be out there forever. Just yesterday there were people ON OUR SIDE claiming that Rubio was milking the FL GOP for “interest free loans” when, in fact, Rubio was the actual cardholder and would have been hit with the interest had the bill not been paid off each month. But now with this information dump, it looks like the Bush campaign will have to find something else to fill those long and lonesome days.