Feds launch probes of Florida GOP, Rubio's credit card use
By Matt DeLong
Hot on the heels of the Republican National Committee's embarrassing expense scandal, the St. Petersburg Times reports that several federal law enforcement agencies have launched an investigation into the use of credit cards by the Florida state GOP, elected officials and staff.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tallahassee, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service are all involved in the inquiry, which grew out of the state investigation into former House Speaker Ray Sansom. He was indicted on criminal charges that he stashed $6 million in the state budget for an airplane hangar for a friend and campaign donor.
In the federal case, Sansom and others could be charged with making false statements on their tax returns and tax evasion stemming from hundreds of thousands dollars in charges on party credit cards.
The Times reports that the IRS is also looking at the financial records of former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio -- who is now running against Gov. Charlie Crist in the GOP Senate primary race -- and two other officials "to determine whether they misused their party credit cards for personal expenses, according to a source familiar with the preliminary inquiry." Rubio said Wednesday that he has not been contacted by the IRS.
This isn't the first time Rubio's credit card usage has been questioned. In February, Rubio admitted that he double-billed taxpayers and the Republican Party for eight flights. He called the billing a "mistake" and reimbursed the party for about $3,000, the Miami Herald reported. During a face-off on Fox News Sunday last month, Crist hammered Rubio for repaying the party instead of the taxpayers.
The probe comes at a critical moment in the Senate primary race. Rubio, a conservative darling and favorite of the tea party movement, is leading by huge margins in recent polls. In recent days, Crist has signaled that he may drop out of the GOP race by the April 30 deadline and run as an independent, as many have long speculated he would.
In a measure of how seriously Rubio's supporters take the probe, Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative RedState.com, sought to reframe the investigation as a scandal for Crist, who has not been named in news reports as a target. Erickson titled a blog post on the matter: "Charlie Crist's GOP Comes Under Federal Investigation. Rubio Affected."
April 21, 2010; 12:38 PM ET
Categories: 44 Native , 44 The Obama Presidency , Republican Party
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