If the election for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by George LeMieux was to be voted on today, based on every poll, Marco Rubio would be going to Washington in January.
The election is not for 40 more days, and it remains to be seen whether Charlie Crist or Kendrick Meek will be able to make sufficient hay out of the devastating spate of stories that have been published this week about Rubio and his message of stopping irresponsible spending by Washington.
Lucy Morgan's story in today's St. Pete Times shows that he certainly wasn't about all that in Tallahassee. Morgan reports that Rubio was identified in an e-mail circulating among a group of justices on a committee that was behind the $48 million courthouse for the 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee that been dubbed the "Taj Mahal" since Morgan first reported on it weeks ago.
The former House Speaker says he was aware of the request to build the courthouse, "but it was not something that I worked on as speaker." One fellow South Floridian Republican disagrees:
Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, also listed as a "hero,'' said Rubio had to have approved the bill. "It's easy to blame Victor, but it was in a House transportation bill; only the speaker could approve it,'' Villalobos said.
Morgan also reports today that a grand jury will convene in Leon County next week to hear about the building, primarily financed with a $33.5 million bond issue that legislators slipped into a transportation bill on the last day of the 2007 legislative session.
In another regarding Rubio and finances, also on the front page in vending machines across Tampa Bay is a story penned by the Tampa Tribune's William March in which CL contributor Chris Ingram says that Rubio told him a year ago that Rubio spent $4,000-$5,000 on his Republican Party credit card for kitchen flooring.
Rubio, as you probably know, has refused to release all of the billing records for his party credit card, calling it "an internal party matter," though of course he enjoyed bashing Charlie Crist when his RPOF credit card charges were released in the audit that the party conducted and released over the past week.
Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Burgos bashes Ingram for his story, saying:
"It's no surprise this individual would go around attacking Marco considering he desperately wanted to be on the inside of this campaign and was rejected, Later on, he tried to mend fences, but again his services were not needed."
That's not what Ingram is saying. You can read his extensive response to all of this in his new column, available here.
In the piece, titled, Rubio:2010's Katherine Harris - another pathological liar for U.S.Senate, Ingram explains the context of how Rubio told him his tale of using the party credit card for his own personal expenses, and how he's absolutely not surprised that Team Rubio is coming after him. But he says what is crucial to note here - that Marco isn't denying what Ingram is accusing him of:
An important fact to consider about this case is that Rubio doesnt deny the charge. This is because he knows that somewhere out there the records exist to corroborate my story. That is, there is an AmEx statement with Rubios name on it for new kitchen floors paid for by the RPOF. If Rubio wasnt guilty/was innocent of this reckless and possibly illegal spending, he could of course prove it by releasing all of his American Express card statements. But we all know that isnt ever going to happen because guilty people dont release their records only honest people do, and honesty is not an adjective that fits Marco Rubio.
So, given the facts dont support his claims, what does Marco have left to do? Attack me.
Attack the messenger is one of the most common defensive tactics politicians who dont have the facts on their side employ in order to divert attention from the real issues in an attempt to get back on offense.
If these front page stories don't have you questioning Rubio's image as a messenger of change to stop the irresponsible fiscal policies of our elected officials, then I give you the story written this past Sunday in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune by Zac Anderson.
This is how Anderson's story began:
For 16 months, Rubio has carried this message of fiscal responsibility to great applause across Florida.
What Rubio does not tell the crowds is that he has gone deep into debt and struggled to make his payments, with Deutsche Bank initiating foreclosure proceedings on one of his homes in June.
Rubio resolved the foreclosure case, but debt has been a constant companion. In 2005, he carried more than $1 million in debt with mortgages on three homes, a home equity line of credit, a car loan and more than $150,000 in student loans.
As he tried to meet his obligations, Rubio engaged in a series of financial transactions that led to accusations that he received special treatment because of his political connections, abused campaign cash and engaged in deals where a conflict of interest existed between his political position and financial benefit.
Such deals seem to contradict the principles Rubio espouses on the campaign trail: calling for balanced budgets as he strained his own, and criticizing government waste as he arranged unadvertised government jobs for himself.
Although Rubio has never considered himself a "Tea-Party" candidate per se, a la Rand Paul or Christine O'Donnell, there's no question that his ascendancy has paralleled their rise in 2009-2010. What do members of that flock think when they read these stories? That it doesn't matter what Rubio has done in his personal life? That he'll be a better check on Barack Obama in Congress and thus that trumps whatever Crist or Meek will do?
Or do they really stand for what they say they do?
In today's Wall Street Journal, columnist Daniel Henninger calls the Tea Party movement much bigger than what happened in 1994, because these candidates are not the political status quo, above all else.
But then what to make of Rubio's involvement with the "Taj Mahal'? Or spending a party credit card on loads of his own personal expenses? Doesn't that sound like business as usual, despite the flowery rhetoric?
Chris Ingram ain't no liberal folks. So who's he going to support in the Senate in November? The Libertarian candidate, Alex Snitker.
At least what we know of Snitker right now, nobody can accuse him of being a hypocrite.