March 15th, 2010
11:26 AM ET
13 years ago

Rubio defends committee spending during South Carolina swing

Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) - Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio defended himself Monday after a news report revealed that two political committees he started while serving in the Florida House spent heavily on operating costs and payments to relatives, but did little to help other Republicans seeking office.

"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.

Filed under: 2010 • Florida • Marco Rubio
soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. Avg Guy in Red State Kansas

    So, lemmie get this straight... While Mr. Rubio is out allegedly pimping for other candidates, he and his family are living large off the money he raised?

    Man, am I ever glad I live in Kansas where our senior senator is a lying hillbilly from Dodge City (the "Bovine Flatulence Capital of the Known Universe") and not Florida where they grow fruit and, obviously, some really dumb nuts!

    March 15, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. homas

    Just another hypocritical conservative thief. All for me and mine – nada for anyone else. What a bum.

    March 15, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  3. Ed Tallahassee

    So it takes $154,000 to deliver $4,000. Yeah the State of Florida is better without Rubio.

    March 15, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  4. johnkc

    I use to take my family to Myrtle Beach South Carolina on vacation, but since the likes of Demint and Joe Wilson have been elected by the people of South Carolina, I have found that I do not have anything in common with the people of South Carolina and will keep my vacation dollars far from them.

    March 15, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
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