"The whole story is based on false premises," Rubio told CNN Monday during a fundraising swing through South Carolina with one of his top political patrons, GOP Sen. Jim DeMint. "It costs money to be in politics and that's what the committees were for."
The story, published Saturday in the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, said Rubio started one political committee, Floridians for Conservative Leadership, in 2003. The committee only doled out $4,000 to GOP candidates, but spent nearly $90,000 on political consultants, $14,000 in reimbursements to Rubio and over $50,000 in credit card expenses, according to the report.
A second committee, Floridians for Conservative Leadership in Government, paid thousands of dollars to "couriers" - several of whom were Rubio's relatives. A top supporter of Rubio's opponent in the Florida Senate primary, Gov. Charlie Crist, accused Rubio and his family of "living off" the committees – a charge the Rubio campaign vehemently denied in the story.
Rubio said it's not uncommon for members of his political operation to be family members. He said the relatives were "staffers that worked on our campaign."
Rubio's campaign has acknowledged that the relatives should have been listed by bookkeepers as campaign aides, but said the candidate did nothing wrong.
Those family members, Rubio told CNN, were paid "for work delivered."
CNN caught up with Rubio on Monday. Watch the exclusive video after the jump:
"Like I said, that's for political work," he said. "That's the political things that the campaign did. It's a standard operating procedure."
During the brief interview, Rubio pointed out that his nephew, Orlando Cicilia, serves as his traveling aide.
"We do hire people we trust and believe in," Rubio said. "At the time they were 19-year old travel aides, but they worked at different and separate times. Nothing improper with that. This is just a distraction or diversion to try and divert attention, to try divert attention away form the central issues of this campaign."
DeMint also defended the committee spending, calling Crist "pretty desperate at this point."
"I have no doubts about Marco Rubio," DeMint told CNN.