U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio charged grocery bills, repairs to the family minivan and purchases from a wine store less than a mile from his West Miami home to the Republican Party of Florida while he was speaker of the Florida House, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times.
Rubio said Wednesday that he paid for all personal expenses billed to an American Express card given to him by the party to use from 2005 to 2008, when he left public office. The rest of the charges, he said, were legitimate party expenses.
Those expenses include a $1,000 charge at Braman Honda in Miami for repairs to the family car in January 2008. Rubio said the minivan was damaged by parking attendants at a political function and that the party agreed to cover half of his insurance deductible. The party also paid $2,976 for him to rent a car in Miami for five weeks, according to the records provided by a confidential source.
Rubio said the party allowed him to put personal expenses on the card — and the party reviewed his bill monthly.
"I was as diligent as possible to ensure the party did not pay for items that were unrelated to party business," Rubio said in a written statement. "There was no formal process provided by the Party regarding personal charges."
Party spokeswoman Katie Gordon said the card was not supposed to be used for personal expenses. "The RPOF American Express card is a corporate card and is meant to be used for business expenses."
Donations to parties must go exclusively toward influencing elections under IRS rules.
Records show Rubio sent payments to American Express totaling $13,900 for his personal expenses during his tenure as House speaker. But those payments were not made monthly. He made no contributions to the bill during a six-month stretch in 2007, records show.
Charges covered by the party as political expenses include:
$765 at Apple's online store for "computer supplies."
$25.76 from Everglades Lumber for "supplies."
$53.49 at Winn-Dixie in Miami for "food."
$68.33 at Happy Wine in Miami for "beverages" and "meal."
$78.10 for two purchases at Farm Stores in suburban Miami.
$412 at All Fusion Electronics, a music equipment store in Miami, for "supplies."
Rubio's campaign could not find records to explain many of these expenses Wednesday night. But Rubio stressed that GOP staffers also may be responsible for some expenses because they also had access to the credit card.
Though Rubio said he tried to pay all his personal expenses, at least some ended up on the party ledger, records show. Three payments to a Tallahassee property management group, which Rubio described as personal, were paid by the party, totaling $1,024, state and the credit-card records show.
Rubio also booked six plane tickets for his wife using the card. It was unclear how many, if any, of those trips his wife actually took; in some instances, she did not fly and Rubio was credited by the airline.
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