What Marco Rubio Paid for With His Florida GOP Charge Card

JONATHAN KARL, SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and INES DE LA CUETARA
What Marco Rubio Paid for With His Florida GOP Charge Card (ABC News)

Movie tickets, Costco and grocery store runs, Walt Disney World trips, flowers and flights for his wife –- those are some of the charges listed in two years of statements for Marco Rubio’s American Express card issued by the Republican Party of Florida.

The charges -- which have surfaced along with questions about his personal finances as an issue for the GOP candidate in the 2016 campaign -- are listed in two years (2007-'08) of statements obtained by ABC News that have been widely circulated in Florida political circles since Rubio ran for Senate in 2010.

The Rubio campaign today released the records for the two other years (2005-'06) he had the card, along with a statement saying he paid all of his personal charges himself.

"Marco paid his personal charges directly to American Express," the statement said. "The Republican Party of Florida did not pay for any of Marco's personal expenses. Further, taxpayer funds were not used for any political or personal charges on the card."

ABC News has not been able to determine all of the charges that were personal, though Rubio’s campaign has identified some that were. Rubio wrote in his 2012 memoir "An American Son" that nearly all were for party business, "but from time to time a few personal expenses were charged to the card as well."


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"Each time, I identified the charges and paid the costs myself, directly to American Express," he wrote. "The Republican Party of Florida didn’t pay a single one of them."

Rubio’s campaign has said meals and hotel expenses were all related to Republican party business, including the trips to Walt Disney World, where his campaign said the Republican Party of Florida held most of its fundraisers. Hotel stays and meals are expenses typically found on campaign and political committee expense reports and credit card statements.

The campaign said Rubio was traveling around the state and raising money for the party frequently.

Among the charges on card, according to the statements are nine purchases from florists for a total of $709 over the two years and food and hotel charges, including almost $1,800 for food or stays at Walt Disney World properties. There are also hotel charges in his hometown of Miami, including $308.98 at the Conrad Hotel Atrio in February 2007, with a $260.91 food and beverage charge, and a $162.07 charge at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami in September 2007.

Some charges include travel and stays outside of Florida. An August 2007 trip to Boston included food and hotel charges adding up to $1,221. Rubio also charged $140 for two meals in New Hampshire on Jan. 6, 2008, two days before the 2008 New Hampshire primary.

In October 2007, the statements show travel for Rubio’s wife Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio, including a $328.80 Delta Airlines flight from Washington, D.C. to Miami and $444.40 for a flight from Miami to Tallahassee. The following month there is a $723.60 United Airlines ticket for Rubio's wife from Miami to Denver to Aspen.

A Florida statute makes it legal for spouse travel to be paid for by campaign or political committee funds. This would make these flights permitted under Florida state law.



It was unclear which of these expenses were personal or GOP-related.

It's also unclear whether the Republican Party of Florida allowed personal charges on the card. In a story Friday, the Washington Post reported that in a 2010 policy manual, corporate cards were "'for RPOF business use only.” Some cardholders also were told verbally that they could only use the card for "party-related business."

The party did not respond to a request for comment about whether personal charges were allowed, but issued the following statement.

“The Florida GOP has filed all necessary and required reports with the Florida Division of Elections and will not be releasing any additional information on historical finances,” said Brad Herold, the executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, in a statement.

The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald first reported in 2010 that the charge card was used for party expenses and sometimes personal expenses as well.

Rubio wrote in his 2012 memoir that “there were a variety of incidental expenses, like flowers for a donor who had suffered a death in the family.”

He also wrote that he "pulled the wrong card from my wallet to pay for pavers" and that his travel agent "mistakenly used the card to pay for a family reunion in Georgia—a single expenditure that represented 65 percent of personal charges on the card."

His campaign has said the movie ticket was a personal expense Rubio paid for himself and he should have used his other credit card.

Rubio charged a total of $160,000 to the card from 2005 through 2008, according to his book, and according to the Washington Post he paid off over $16,000 in personal expenses.

In 2010, a Florida man filed an ethics complaint against Rubio for the charges, but it was dismissed.

On ABC's "Good Morning America" this week, Rubio defended his use of the card saying it was a "charge card" that had to be paid in full and was secured with his own credit.

"Bills would be mailed to me at home. Every month I would go through it," he said.

The statements obtained by ABC News do show one of the statements being sent to his home in Miami, but the others were sent to the Republican Party of Florida’s address in Tallahassee.

"If there was a personal expense, I paid it," Rubio said. "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.”

The Rubio campaign said the statements did go to his home for the first two years and then for the next two years they were sent to Republican Party headquarters.