Marco Rubio on the Ray Sansom indictment
Marco Rubio is running for the Senate on the heels of his hand-picked budget chief, Ray Sansom, getting indicted on a charge of official misconduct. Today Rubio gave his most extensive interview to date about the indictment. Here's an edited transcript:
You were in charge. Do you bear some responsibility for this happening under your watch?
As speaker, if anyone wants to put responsibility for anything on you, you have to accept that. But I would just say the Legislature is not run by a single person. The job of the speaker is to run the process, but ultimately you empower members to do a job. Traditionally...the chairman of the budget, along with the rules chair and other key members of your leadership team, are empowered with a tremendous amount of discretion...We delegated a lot of responsibility, and I think that's how you run an organization, and unfortunately in this case it led to some unfortunate decisions that were made.
After the first round of indictments, there was a fair amount of talk that the grand jury didn't understand the process, that this is just the way things worked in the Legislature. Do you think that's true?
There may have been instances in the past where the budget process was used to accomplish goals like this, but that doesn't make it right.... I don't think there's any doubt that perhaps this case raises the specter of re-examining the way the budget process has traditionally functioned in Florida...It points out maybe some of the weaknesses in the system.
What would be ways you think it should be improved?
"I don't know, maybe the work papers should be made public. To give you an example, the leadership institute, which is now the focus of some people, was part of a building funded through the PECO dollars, but the notion that one of the floors of the building would be for the leadership, maybe work papers should be made public...Understand that the heart of this indictment is not that the building is not in the budget. The PECO-funded building is in the budget, but the heart of the indictment is that the building is not what the budget calls it. Ultimately the only folks who could have known that are the folks behind putting that there. I don't have off the top of my head a remedy for that problem...Even public disclosure is not enough.
What came to your attention and caused you concern was the leadership institute. Did you ever confront Sansom about that?
I don't recall that I confronted Sansom about it. I confronted (top appropriations staffer) Mike Hansen about it, we talked about it. I said that I had been unaware of its existence.
Do you feel like Ray Sansom betrayed you?
I don't want to comment on that. The guy has enough problems right now, and I certainly think he deserves to have a fair hearing on these matters.
Kevin Ambler the other day suggested the state attorney has political motivations in this case. You think there's anything to that?
That's his opinion...I don't have any information that would lead me to make the same statement.
Are you worried this issue hurts you and your campaign?
I don't know, not really. It's something unfortunate that happened in the Legislature when I was speaker...Traditionally the budget chairs are powerful people and inherent in the appropriations process is a significant amount of power and discretion...The speaker's not the only powerful member of the House....There's a balancing act involved. If you insist upon controlling everything that happens, you seem to be authoritarian and the other members wonder well why did we get elected? We didn't come up here just to do whatever you say. On the other hand, there's a certain level of control you have to have over the process. We tried to walk that line as fairly as possible.
In hindsight do you think you should have been more authoritarian, more controlling?
I don't think that would have prevented something like this from happening, whether it was with Ray Sansom or anybody else. Ultimately the nature of the problem here was not that we didn't know a certain project was in the budget, the nature of the problem was that it was called one thing and really was something else. There was no way to know that, unless at the staff level or some other level someone is informing you of it.
Do you feel like your staff - Mike Hansen and (former chief of staff) Bob Ward - let you down?
In hindsight we all would have liked to have more background on what those items meant and what those items were. To the extent that anybody knew what those items were and didn't inform the speaker's office or others about it, obviously that's unfortunate, because a lot of this could have been avoided.
What's your relationship with Jay Odom?
I've met him a few times. I met him through Ray and at different events, but I don't know him all that well...I know he was a donor to the party so he'd go to some of our events.