[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/16/art.rubio.0218f.gi.jpg caption="Rubio said Wednesday he has not been contacted about a reported federal investigation into his use of a state party credit card"](CNN) - Florida Senate hopeful Marco Rubio said Wednesday he has not been contacted about a reported federal investigation into his use of a state party credit card and proclaimed himself innocent of any wrongdoing.
The St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald reported late Tuesday that the IRS has opened a "preliminary" investigation into whether Rubio, former House Speaker Ray Sansom and former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer "misused their party credit cards for personal expenses." The papers cited an anonymous law enforcement source for their story.
News of the investigation interrupts several weeks of momentum for the surging Rubio, who is consolidating GOP support as his primary rival for the Republican nomination, Gov. Charlie Crist, considers abandoning the contest altogether.
Questions about Rubio's use of a state party credit card are not new. The Times and Herald reported in February that Rubio, while serving as House speaker, used his party-issued credit card for personal charges, including grocery bills and repairs to his family's minivan. Rubio has said he re-paid those personal charges out of his own pocket.
Last week, Rubio said he did not believe he needed to amend his tax returns to reflect any party money that may have been used for personal expenses.
Responding to news of the IRS inquiry, Rubio said that "getting this information out in the open will be the best way to deal with it."
"As far as my spending is concerned, it was for legitimate political purposes," he said in a statement. "When I made personal charges, I paid for them directly to American Express. I have not been contacted and don't know anything about any potential inquiries, but I welcome the chance to set the record straight once and for all."
A spokesman for Rubio, Alex Burgos, made the point that an investigation has not been publicly confirmed. He re-iterated that his candidate has not been contacted by the IRS or federal officials.
Meanwhile, Crist spokeswoman Amanda Hennenberg said in a statement, "This speaks to a wider issue that undercuts Speaker Rubio’s credibility when it comes to his fiscal conservative credentials, as well as raises questions about this political insider’s use of public office for his own personal enrichment."
As we have said before, when it comes to Speaker Rubio, it’s not what we know, it’s what we don’t know YET," she also said.