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Rubio's income grew with his political clout, tax records show

Under pressure from his chief U.S. Senate rival, former House Speaker Marco Rubio released nine years of tax records on Friday, revealing how his personal income grew along with his political influence.

Rubio's tax returns show that his income increased from $82,710 in 2000 when he was elected to the Florida House to $301,864 in 2004 — the year he stepped on the political track to become House speaker, one of the Legislature's most powerful posts.

During his last year in Tallahassee, Rubio earned nearly $400,000, with the bulk of the money coming from the Miami law firm of Broad & Cassell.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who has made public his tax records and is now running as an independent candidate against Rubio, has been pushing the Republican front-runner to release his tax records since late March. The leading Democrat in the Senate race, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, released his returns earlier this week.

Unlike Crist and Meek, Rubio did not release itemized tax deductions that would show property taxes and interest paid on mortgages.

The records Rubio posted Friday on his campaign website are expected to be reviewed by the Internal Revenue Service as part of its inquiry into his use of an American Express card issued by the Republican Party of Florida.

The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times reported in April that the IRS is also looking at spending of party donations by Jim Greer, the former state party chairman, and Delmar Johnson, the former executive director. The IRS requires party money to be spent exclusively on political activities.

Rubio frequently used the party credit card for personal use, though he has said he covered those expenses with about $16,000 in checks to American Express. As a lawmaker, he also raised about $600,000 for two political committees that reimbursed him for tens of thousands of dollars in unitemized meals and travel expenses.

After term limits forced Rubio to leave office in 2008, he started his own law firm and stitched together an income from a number of clients and consulting contracts. In February 2009, he launched a campaign for the Senate that involved constant travel for public appearances and private fundraising events.

Since 2009, Rubio has earned $230,754 from his law firm, $60,265 in consulting fees and $72,674 from his teaching job at Florida International University, according to a personal financial disclosure form he filed last week with the secretary of the Senate.

Rubio's recent sources of income include a number of South Florida institutions that regularly lobby in Tallahassee for millions of dollars in state funding.

He and former legislative aide Vivian Bovo signed consulting contracts worth $102,000 and $96,000 with Miami Children's and Jackson Memorial hospitals, respectively. Rubio has said his hiring had nothing to do with his support for FIU getting a medical school.

His campaign said his taxes from 2000 to 2008 totaled more than $410,000 and that he contributed over $66,000 to charity, much of it going to Christ Fellowship Church. Rubio did not release his 2009 tax return because he has filed for an extension.

Over the years, Rubio, who is married with four children, has carried a heavy personal debt.

More than $900,000 in home, car and student loans deflated his net worth to $8,332 in November 2008 when he left public office, according to his state financial disclosure form.

Among the debts was a $135,000 home equity loan. It was based on an appraisal that said his West Miami home increased in value from $550,000 when he bought it in December 2005 with a $55,000 down payment to $735,000 just 37 days later.

When the Miami Herald reported the loan in 2008, Rubio said he did not receive special treatment from Miami-based U.S. Century Bank, whose board of directors includes supporters like developer Sergio Pino. He said failing to include the loan on his state financial disclosure form was an "oversight," and he amended it.

The federal form does not ask Senate candidates to pinpoint their net worth or to disclose mortgages on their personal residences. The campaign said Friday that his "principal liability is his home in West Miami and his student loan."

When he began his Senate campaign in early 2009, he listed a college loan and a mortgage on his Tallahassee condominium, each between $100,000 and $250,000. Only the student loan appears on his latest filing.

His disclosure form also lists checking and savings accounts with more than $1,000 and less than $15,000 in each, a retirement account worth less than $50,000, and four accounts with the Florida Prepaid College Plan.

Crist's 2009 tax return lists his $132,191 gubernatorial salary as his only income. His personal financial disclosure form includes cash and money market banks accounts, and multimillion-dollar trust funds and other assets held by his wife, Carole Rome. He did not report any liabilities.

Meek's return reports $247,555 in income from his congressional salary and his wife's salary as an administration law judge. His disclosure form includes a student loan totaling between $50,000 and $100,000.

Rubio's tax records

IncomeTaxes
2000$82,710$11,769
200189,87913,883
2002124,72121,661
2003122,71817,414
2004301,86471,361
2005330,10676,739
2006318,78959,834
2007308,28554,423
2008399,18786,010

Source: Rubio Senate campaign

Rubio's income grew with his political clout, tax records show 05/21/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 22, 2010 12:04am]
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