Newly released credit card statements from the years when Senator Marco Rubio was a young Florida legislator on the fast track to leadership show a pattern of falling behind on payments while mingling personal and political spending, disclosures that reinforce the image of a politician who has long struggled with messy finances, at home and in his career. On Saturday, Mr. Rubio's campaign released roughly two years of charges, from 2005 and 2006, that were made to his Republican Party of Florida-issued American Express card, hoping to at last quiet accusations that he used party money to pay for trips, meals and gifts for him and his family.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has acknowledged "a lack of bookkeeping skills," even when dealing with his own money, which has led to quite a few problems throughout much of his career in politics.
The Florida senator, for example, co-owned property with a scandal-plagued friend, failed to detail the mortgage on financial disclosure forms, and then faced foreclosure. When Rubio wrapped up his career in the state legislature, he had "more than $900,000 in debt." There's also the odd liquidation of Rubio's retirement account -- even after the senator received a seven-figure book deal.
But it's a charge card given to him by the Republican Party of Florida that's caused Rubio the most trouble. The lawmaker was told the card was for "party business only," but Rubio nevertheless used it more than once for personal charges -- repairing his minivan, charging $10,000 to attend a family reunion, etc. -- and then reimbursed the state GOP later.
Complicating matters, Rubio had also "refused to provide credit card statements from 2005 and 2006," which has long raised concerns among Florida reporters. Over the weekend, as the New York Times reported, Rubio released the previously undisclosed information.
So, any bombshells?
Not exactly. We now know that over the course of several years, Rubio charged over $180,000 on the card, and about a tenth of that total was for personal use. Rubio reimbursed his party, though as the Times report added, "those payments were routinely late -- 21 times over the course of those four years -- sometimes because he did not pay on time, and sometimes because the Republican Party fell behind. The account, which was listed under his name, was assessed delinquency charges seven times, adding up to $1,639.47."
Rubio insists he used his own money to reimburse Republicans for personal charges, though his campaign conceded over the weekend "it could not provide full documentation proving Mr. Rubio had paid the personal charges himself because the corresponding personal bank statements were too old to be retrievable."
This detail continues to be a point of concern for some of the GOP candidate's skeptics. Chris Ingram, a Florida Republican consultant, told Politico that Rubio claims shouldn't be accepted at face value unless there's evidence to back them up.
"You can't take that guy for his word," Ingram said of Rubio. "I wouldn't trust him to walk my dog."