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Explaining Marco Rubio's money problems

The Florida senator has said the attacks on his handling of his personal finances have all been “discredited.” That's not quite true.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. listens to questions during a campaign event at St. Anslem College in Manchester, N.H., Nov. 4, 2015. (Photo by Charles Krupa/AP)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. listens to questions during a campaign event at St. Anslem College in Manchester, N.H., Nov. 4, 2015.

Marco Rubio’s got a money problem.

As the Republican presidential candidate rises in the polls, his personal finances are offering fodder for rivals' attacks. Donald Trump has declared Rubio a “disaster on his credit cards,” and Jeb Bush’s team dubbed him a “risky bet” because of his financial habits.

"It raises the question whether you have the maturity and the wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy," CNBC moderator Becky Quick asked last week. "What do you say?"

Responding to Quick, Rubio said the attacks were all “discredited,” a statement PolitiFact rated false

So what, if anything, did Rubio actually do wrong? And what's he saying about it?

He mingled personal and business expenses as a state legislator in Florida. 

As House Speaker in the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio used a Republican Party American Express card to pay for personal and business expenses, The New York Times reported. In two years, that bill totaled $110,000, according to the Miami Herald. 

Rubio says he repaid $16,000 of that sum for personal expenses. “I recognize in hindsight, I would do it differently to avoid all this confusion," Rubio said Wednesday on Good Morning America. "But the Republican Party never paid a single expense of mine – personal expense.” 

He added of the American Express bill: “Every month, I’d go through it. If it was a personal expense, I paid it. If it was a party expense, the party paid it.”

Rubio also double-billed a number of flights by "mistake," according to the Miami Herald, repaying the state Republican Party in 2010. 

Rubio’s second home faced foreclosure and sold at a loss.

Rubio and a friend, David Rivera, bought a $135,000 home in Tallahassee in 2005 to share while working as state representatives. Rubio failed to detail the mortgage on financial disclosure forms, the Miami Herald reported, later saying it was an oversight and amending his forms when asked by reporters about it. 

In 2010, the pair stopped making mortgage payments on the home, citing a dispute with the bank, according to Politico. When the bank filed a lawsuit months later, Rivera quickly made up the payments.

In recent years, Rubio has distanced himself from Rivera, who served in Congress from 2011 to 2013. Rivera is currently undergoing a federal ethics investigations unrelated to Rubio, as well as a Florida ethics investigation for accepting taxpayer reimbursement for travel, while allowing a political committee to pick up the travel bill for years. A Florida judge recently recommended to the legislature that Rivera pay a fine of nearly $58,000. 

Rubio and Rivera later sold the house for $18,000 less than they’d paid for it a decade prior. Rubio has not discussed the issue publicly, declining to comment in the past.

He paid thousands in fees to liquidate a retirement account.

Rubio liquidated a $68,000 retirement account last year, going against the advice of most financial advisors and paying both income taxes and a 10% penalty fee for withdrawing the money early, Bloomberg reported.

Rubio says he wants his family to have access to cash during his presidential bid to take care of unexpected costs, “like if the refrigerator breaks,” as he put it in the Good Morning America interview on Wednesday.

“We’re raising a family in the 21st century, and its one of the reasons that my tax plan is a pro-family tax plan,” Rubio said during the debate when pressed on the issue. “I didn’t read about this in a book. I know for a fact how difficult it is to raise children, how expensive it is for these families.”