WaPo: Rubio Using The Florida GOP Charge Card Is Not A Scandal. It's A Nothing-Burger

Posted: Nov 06, 2015 8:45 PM
WaPo: Rubio Using The Florida GOP Charge Card Is Not A Scandal. It's A Nothing-Burger

Shots were fired between the Rubio and Trump camps over the Florida Senator’s alleged impropriety with the state party’s charge card. Overall, yes, Floridian Republican Party officials were embroiled in a scandal over improper expenditures, which prompted Trump to say that Rubio is “a disaster with his credit cards” on Tuesday, according to The New York Times. Yet, the Washington Post’s fact-checkers analyzed the claim and found that much of what Rubio has said to explain the $160,000 he put on the card pretty much checked out–and that this isn’t a scandal.

This is what he said during an interview with Good Morning America on November 4, which served as the basis for the Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee’s dissection of the alleged Rubio baggage that turned into a nothing-burger:

“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.”

Now, that doesn’t mean there isn't the appearance of questionable charges made during the time Rubio had the charge card. According to Lee’s analysis, the senator did charge $25.76 to Everglades Lumber and $765 at the Apple store. Yet, it was later determined that the $25.76 charge was for office supplies, which relates to a legal business expense. Second, the $765 Apple charge was to accommodate the storage of certain political files. As for the paver’s expense Lee found, she noted that Rubio admitted to pulling out the wrong card. His 2007 family reunion in Georgia accounted for 65 percent of the amount accrued on the corporate card, but he scheduled payments to pay off the charges:

A February 2010 Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times report found Rubio was one of the state officials who charged personal expenses to party-issued corporate cards. This revelation came amid a larger scandal that found top officials in the state Republican Party ran amok misusing party funds with little to no oversight.

Rubio is correct that the card was a shared liability charge card. In fact, all American Express corporate cards in the U.S. are charge cards, which is a type of credit card that requires the bill to be paid in full every month. Late fees are incurred on the cardholder.


Rubio says the Republican Party “never paid a single personal expense of mine — personal expense.” As far as we can tell, there appears to be just one instance from 2007 to 2009 where he repaid directly to the party for a charge he should not have made on the party card. But this was not technically a personal expense.

Rubio had double-billed the party and state taxpayers $2,417.80 in airline tickets for state business. He paid for the tickets with his party-issued card, and then submitted reimbursement vouchers to the state. Rubio repaid the money to the party by writing a check, records show.


A Florida resident filed an ethics complaint against Rubio for his airline charges, among other allegations. The Florida Ethics Commission confirmed it was a billing mistake. The prosecutor for the commission found that the “level of negligence” exhibited by Rubio in confusing his cards, and then approving the reimbursement requests without recognizing the error, was “disturbing.” But the prosecutor did not find probable cause for an intentional wrongful act.


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.


… [W]hat 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.


Rubio’s carefully worded explanation doesn’t quite rise to the level of a Geppetto Checkmark, but it is accurate enough that it does not warrant even a single Pinocchio.

This isn’t nearly as big as the questionable Clinton Foundation donations, and lack of transparency thereof, or the private email system Clinton set up in her Chappaqua home when she was Secretary of State. This doesn’t relate to the alleged mishandling of classified information, questions about the intentional evasion of transparency laws and public records, or possible quid pro quo regarding Foundation donations and arms sales. This is another attempt to undercut Rubio–and there’s nothing here.

The first attempt was a laughable New York Times hit piece in June, that claimed Rubio was living high off the hog because he bought a “luxury speedboat.” Well, it wasn’t a speedboat. It was a fishing boat, which, as Katie wrote, highlighted how this whole narrative was a total joke:

This is so ridiculous I'm actually laughing at my computer right now. Rubio had student loan debt? Yeah, so? A lot of people do. The Rubios had trouble balancing their spending? Who doesn't? Rubio took out a loan on his home to make ends meet? Good for him, lots of people do. He was paid a hefty amount of money to write a book about his upbringing that he used to pay off debt? Even better. He had more than one home now? Cool, wish I did too. He spent $80,000 on a speed fishing boat in ocean-surrounded Florida after paying off his debt? How could he?!

As for the claim about his debts, Americans know that there’s a difference between managing one’s personal finances and that of an entire nation. You have multiple congressional committees, cabinet positions, and advisers who help the president formulate policies that tackle the debt, deficit, and the rest of the economy.  Also, millions of Americans owe debt. It's not a disqualifying factor when it comes to running or the presidency, which is why CNBC’s Becky Quick’s question about Rubio having the “maturity and the wisdom to lead a $17 trillion economy” was not only bush league–but totally ridiculous. Rubio responded by noting everything Quick said were Democratic talking points. He later described his humble upbringing, and how his hard work allowed him to achieve the American dream. Yes, Sen. Rubio liquidated his retirement account at an age where he incurred enormous taxes and fees, but so have millions of other Americans in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. 

Oh, and do we need to rehash how Rubio can’t be president because he didn’t pay his parking tickets? Moreover, this isn’t exactly a winning attack strategy for “dead broke” Clinton. The liberal media has nothing to go on in this area.