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As State Representative and House Speaker, Marco Rubio found himself in a world of big money, big favors and big choices. He also had a new found responsibility, not only must he lead the Florida House of Representatives in a means beholden to the people, but he must also control a very large flow of cash in the land of “keep what you kill”!
Then Representative Rubio has been accused of floating personal loans on the fat of what he collected in “leadership funds”. He quietly spent them through the RPOF (Republican Party of Florida) on the now famous RPOF AMEX.
Similar financial gamesmanship put then RPOF Chairman Jim Greer in jail and also created a financial dilemma for a young Mr. Rubio bringing the AMEX cards and leadership funds into the light of day.
As Senator Rubio has stated, the charges that where personal charges on the “charge card” where paid back, what a noble thing to do.
“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.”
— Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), interview on “Good Morning America,” Nov. 4, 2015
It seems Senator Rubio wants the discussion framed in just that light and insists that the discussion end there.
That however is not the light we should be focusing on. The fact that the card was “paid back” does not expose the generational confluence that precipitated into a cash flow of tens of millions of dollars per cycle. These monies were controlled by Gubernatorial, Senate and House efforts and then filtered, through the RPOF.
The game works something like this. As Speaker, Senate President, Lt. Governor or State level elected official, you raise big dollars from wealthy corporations and individuals, for the party. Because the dollars are said to be “ear marked” for the Party the “donation” does not count as personal campaign revenue. And the spending of the money is a lot more relaxed under law.
Between 2005 and 2006, Marco Rubio served as speaker-designate of the Florida House of Representatives. During this time, he led the Florida House’s Republican campaign operation (the equivalent of the National Republican Congressional Committee – well sort of equivalent), which included an aggressive travel and fundraising schedule. Well not quite. See, the money was directed to the party and not the “Florida House Republican campaign” unlike the NRCC.
It means that the control over spending is able to be better hidden in the shadows. The Florida House Republican campaign directs the party on the spending and does not have to take credit for the primary races that they influence. So if they can “kill” a few hundred thousand or millions they then get to determine the spending of those dollars and the cronies that will benefit from their donations as well.
To keep a clean face, the leadership funds as they are known, pay for the general party operations and expenses of the RPOF. In return the RPOF allowed the person that collected the money certain discretionary control over the remaining balance of the funds and use of an American Express card.
Let’s get past the mechanics though because the guys behind the curtains have figured out or legislated a way around any illegality. I am sure it is all perfectly kosher as they say.
The responsibilities of the Constitutional offices of the Speaker, Lt. Governor, etc. get tricky when you are perpetuating your own agenda. It happens when you try to balance the interest of the people against the interest of the political machine. You see, not only did the funds get used for minivan repairs and electric bills but they were used to tip the scales in contested Republican primaries for Florida House and Senate seats.
Just like today, insider elected politicians influenced the outcome of GOP primaries by meddling with obscene levels of funding for candidates that act as surrogates for the House and Senate political agenda. The problem is that this is not how our system was designed to work properly and the use of these funds countermands the grassroots efforts to find representatives of the people and bolsters the influential power of the elected class.
This process continues to make a very few political insiders very wealthy at the expense of the Florida citizenry.
The politicos in charge of these accounts and the expenditures never take responsibility for the outcomes of the primary elections they influence because Florida law mandates that any money spent on a campaign must show who paid for it. Well, it wasn’t Senator Rubio; no he gave the money to the RPOF so it was the RPOF in the end that had the appearance of meddling in the political process. Against our own written rule I may add.
In simple terms, if I raise one hundred grand and I give it to the party, the party keeps a percentage off the top and I get to spend the remainder using the party as cover for my deeds. It is kind of slick really. Until you realize that these are the people we elect to govern, protect and shape our future.
Now, one of the main cast of characters is asking for our trust in him to lead this great Nation of mine. So when I say that the place to look is under the rock and not at the cancelled checks for repayment of personal expenses maybe you can see why. I can only wonder what made our Junior Senator think it was acceptable to do such a thing to begin with.
I want a leader that is a person of ethics, morals and personal responsibility; a principled person. Not one that figures out how to personally benefit from my giving them the privilege of my vote.
~ Eric D. Miller – 2015