Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) hasn’t had it easy lately. The conservative freshman has been investigated by the FBI, IRS, Miami-Dade Police Department’s public corruption unit, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement over allegations that he abused his former seat in Florida’s state House of Representatives for personal financial gain and repeatedly lied on financial disclosure forms.
Not surprisingly, this has left Rivera’s future in politics in doubt. But perhaps the more interesting question is what the congressman’s scandals will do to his close, personal friend, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose career is on a very different trajectory.
Chris Cillizza noted this week, “You can sum up Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s biggest impediment to being chosen vice president in two words: David Rivera.”
[Fox News’ Bret Baier] pushed Rubio on Rivera, noting that not only is the Florida Senator hosting a D.C. fundraiser for his friend on May 16 but that the two men also co-owned a house together, a house that went into foreclosure.
Rubio sought to cast the foreclosure issue as a simple misunderstanding; “There was a disagreement with the bank about how much the monthly payments were,” he told Baier, adding: “And it all got confusing.”
Making the story a little more “confusing” is that Rivera has been accused of misusing campaign donations for personal use, and Rubio has largely admitted to having done the same thing.
Indeed, the far-right senator was asked this week about using a Republican Party credit card to purchase personal items. Rubio conceded it “looks bad,” and acknowledged, “I shouldn’t have done it that way.”
It’s worth noting that we’re not talking about minor purchases – Rubio billed the state GOP for more than $100,000 during his two-year tenure as Florida’s House speaker, including repairs to his family minivan.
What’s more, National Journal added that the controversy hasn’t been fully resolved, despite the senator’s claims to the contrary, and Rubio has not yet released relevant materials documenting the extent of his role in the controversy.
Among Florida politicos, these questions are widely known, and at least among Republicans, generally ignored. But it’s worth keeping the stories in mind as scuttlebutt continues about Rubio’s possible role on the 2012 ticket. In many circles, the senator’s background is not well known, and his personal characteristics – handsome young Latino from a key swing state – may obscure issues that a professional vetting team will probably consider important.
If Mitt Romney and his team are hoping for a controversy-free summer, Rubio’s baggage may very well prove hard to overlook.