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. Jilli

    Typical small government, fiscal conservative republican. That talk a good story, but never follow through. Just look at history – republicans have been spewing the same small government, fiscal conservative mantra for years – and their patron saint, ronald reagan was everything his myth says he wasn't. He piled on the debt and deficit second only to GW bush.

    Yeah, I keep holding out hope that the minority of the country still claiming to be republicans, who still parrot the old talking points will finally come to the realization that all they've been told all these years is nothing but bullcrap and that they've been seriously duped. But again, republicans consistently play to the lowest common denominator, and there's a reason for doing so.

    Republicans are fiscal frauds.

    March 15, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  2. Way overdue

    A pattern is emerging, I think this guy is smoke and mirrors.

    March 15, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. Patrick, Mass.

    This may all be technically legitimate, but Crist has a point. It starts to appear that Rubio's political aspirations became the means for his family to financially benefit as well. Legal, maybe. Ethical, not.

    March 15, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. Will-South Dakota

    Of course the GOP candidates will hire only family members--eaiser to control with leaks and easier to seek revenge.

    March 15, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. joel palmer

    another douchebag republithug on the take. Raises money to pay himself and his friends. great ethically challenged; every one of the gop

    March 15, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. Ethan

    Rubio is just another typical lying Republican scammer.

    Don't be a Rube. Do your own research. This guy is as corrupt as any Republican.

    As a party and to a person, the Republican Party JUST DOESN'T CARE.

    They don't care about lying.
    They don't care about slush funds.
    They don't care about policies that would help their constituents.
    They don't care about filibustering job creating bills.
    They don't care about financial reform.
    They don't care about blocking unemployment insurance when Americans are in crisis.
    They don't care about you or me or your children or your grandma.

    They just DON'T CARE, period.

    March 15, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  7. Rosa Birmingham, AL

    At least there is no more mention of his back hair, yuck!

    March 15, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. Tommy

    We need to be asking ourselves one very important question: Does it make any sense at all for taxpayers to pay a congressman $180K per year plus benefits to strive to actually shut government down and re-direct business to the private sector?

    These are elected officials, who are employed by the government to do what? Answer: to shut government down. How does that make any sense?

    March 15, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  9. madmatt

    Oh so the whole family is corrupt and living of campaign contributions...much better a whole family of scum.

    March 15, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    Is it me? Or are these supposed public servants acting more like Con men and grifters to gain all of that special interest money.
    Follow the money and see the truth about these people, if all that money is coming from outside your voter districts, then who do you think they will represent if elected or re-elected?
    Vote for a person who only accepts personnel contributions from within the voter’s district they wish to represent. The voters can make the lobbyists a liability to every candidate who accepts money from the special interests.

    March 15, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. Bill in Dallas

    Rubio is a right wing crack pot and if he should win I hope he can explain to his constituents why he is against social security and medicare. Paling around with Senator Demented is a real sign of ignorance.

    March 15, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Ben in Texas

    I don't see how Rubio is going to talk his way out of this one. If he gets elected, the electorate is at fault, as the pattern of his corruption is right out there for people to see. It's one thing to find, after years in office, that an official is corrupt. But to elect a guy who has shown such corrupt tendencies prior to getting into a major office is inexcusable.

    We elect crooks all the time. In fact, that's almost all we elect, because that's the kind of person who runs. However, for the sake of appearances, we ought to elect a better class of crooks. Otherwise, we start to look inept, rather than just gullible.

    "Somebody told me the other day that I was gullible, and I believed him."

    March 15, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    this is the guy who wants to be govenor of flordia,go head and elect him he and his relatives will steal flordia blind,and deminted stands for everybody except the people of his state.

    March 15, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  14. Larke Marie

    This guy has been a phony forever, those of us who know him have been aware of it for a long time, now the rest of the country is finding out. He is the republican version of John Edwards.

    March 15, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. Michael

    sounds like a fiscally responsible conservative.
    We need more of them

    March 15, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. svscnn

    Wish I could vote in this primary, but unfortunately, Florida doesn't have open primaries and I'm a life-long Independent.

    That said, Crist has been a good Governor and has performed his duties with little partisan-speak. If he wins the GOP primary, I'll have a tough time figuring out how to vote in the finals.

    If Rubio wins the primary it's a no-brainer – I'll vote Dem, regardless of the opponent. I've seen/heard enough from Rubio to know better.

    Of the two, Crist is better for America, while Rubio is better for the current GOP obstructionist agenda.

    March 15, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  17. Carmelle

    A lot of back-stories on this guy who is supposed to be a true fiscal conservative...LMAO!

    March 15, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  18. Sgt. USMC

    I guess he's done attacking the Obama administration on their spending. Hypocrite.

    March 15, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. Pete in FL

    This sorry state keeps electing Republicans and then wonders where is all of this corruption coming from. I don't call it a 3rd World Country for nothing. The whole state ids for sale and proud of it.

    March 15, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. jerseylou

    All the Rubio's i know are nothing but a bunch of crooks. I guess it runs in the family.

    March 15, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. ct jeff

    The more he explains the more it smells. Let's paint with a broad brush all politicians are crooked

    March 15, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Angie in PA

    This guy is a fraud and a liar! the republicans are not fiscal at all. The mess we are in now are the results of the Republicans being fiscal conservatives they are fear mongering jokes! they SCARE YOU INTO VOTING FOR THEM !And once you do they do nothing but sit back laugh and take care of their corporate masters and wall st on your tax dollars!

    March 15, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  23. Dano

    Rubio...Rubio...Rubio. Face it you've been caught with your hand in the proverbial cookie jar. It may be true that "everybody" pays their relatives out of their committee funds but that doesn't make it right. To us working people (you remember us right? – we're sometimes referred to as your constituents) this smacks of political cronyism or outright corruption. Maybe the donors to these committees aren't worried about it – after all they were paid in full during your time in the Florida legislature – but the folks you're trying to get to vote for you may have a different view of these events.

    March 15, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. Lisa in FL

    Uh huh. And where there is smoke, there is fire! The GOP are using this tool as their poster boy. Just like they are using Palin. I live in southern Florida and the amount of Rubio and Palin bumper stickers along with the "stop socialism" stickers give me a good laugh and head shake every single day. What was it "W" said? Oh yea, "fool me once....fool me twice....." Bwa, ha hah, ha, ha ha, ha bwha, ha ha ha!!

    March 15, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  25. Marc

    I know that there must be some Democrat who did (more or less) what Rubio and who would shamelessly try to explain his/her acts the same way he is doing. Hypocrisy isn't exclusivity of one of the sides, it happens in both. The problem is that, even with all the flaws and crimes (malversation of funds) that he commited, there are still people that thinks that he's qualified for being a candidate in 2012!

    March 15, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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