Mr. Rubio is currently implicated in a federal criminal investigationfor the misuse of Florida Republican Party credit cards during his time as Speaker. Specifically, the IRS is examining records to determine if Mr. Rubio and other party leaders personally benefitted from the credit card scheme. Legally, party credit cards can only be used for political activities, but Mr. Rubio and his staff charged many seemingly personal expenses on the cards including car repairs, and grocey purchases. Mr. Rubio’s chief of staff racked up thousands of dollars in expenses on behalf of Mr. Rubio on his card including dinners and a Rubio family trip to a Georgia resort.
Mr. Rubio also admitted he double-billed both the Republican Party and state taxpayers for eight flights totaling about $3,000 in 2007. Mr. Rubio promised to refund the party, because the trips were for official business, but had not as of April 20, 2010.
Additionally, Mr. Rubio inserted earmarks into the state budget for his personal financial gain. While preparing to leave his position in the Florida House of Representatives, he accepted a $69,000 per year, part-time, unadvertised professor position with Florida International University (FIU). When he was hired, FIU had a $32 million budget deficit and had cut 23 degree programs and 200 jobs. During his tenure in the House, Mr. Rubio helped steer at least $29 million to the university, leading FIU’s president at the time to say that Mr. Rubio was “worth every penny”.
Similarly, Mr. Rubio was hired as a consultant for Jackson Memorial Hospital after he earmarked $20 million for the facility. Jackson Memorial paid Mr. Rubio’s firm $8,000 per month. The same firm, which also employed Mr. Rubio’s former aide, the wife of fellow Florida House Rep. Esteban Bovo, scored a $102,000 contract with Miami Children’s Hospital. At the time of the contract, Rep. Bovo was the Miami Children’s Hospital in-house lobbyist.
Furthermore, Mr. Rubio seems to have misused two political committees for personal gain. Mr. Rubio’s committee likely violated state law by failing to disclose $34,000 worth of expenses in 2003 and 2004 including a $7,000 payment to Mr. Rubio. While other Floridian candidates tend to itemize travel expenses, Mr. Rubio billed more than $51,000 in unidentified travel expenses to his committee. The same committee paid $5,700 to his wife, who is listed as its treasurer. Another Rubio political committee listed $14,000 in payments to family members, at least one of whom had a non-existent address.
Mr. Rubio has been criticized for giving preferential treatment to the Dosal Tobacco Company. Dosal had been a significant donor to Mr. Rubio’s campaigns and was a prominent player in Mr. Rubio’s Cuban-American constituency. Due to loopholes in Florida tobacco regulations resulting from a 1997 settlement reached by the state with big tobacco companies, Dosal had been able to avoid a significant per pack surcharge levied on most other tobacco companies. Since at least 2004, the Florida House debated closing the loopholes, but in 2007 and 2008, when Mr. Rubio was the very powerful Speaker of the House, no loophole fix bill was even introduced.
Moreover, Mr. Rubio secretly inserted language into the so called “proviso language,” passed along with the state budget, to increase the chances that Max Alvarez, a close friend and a political contributor to Mr. Rubio, would win a contract with the Florida Department of Transportation. Mr. Alvarez, who considers Mr. Rubio “like a son,” owns a small fuel business, which would not have been allowed to compete for a Florida Turnpike contract under the original language of the budget. Mr. Alvarez approached Mr. Rubio to insert the favorable language allowing his business to bid on the contract. Governor Charlie Crist eventually vetoed the bill underlying the proviso language.