WASHINGTON — Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday released tax returns going back to 2000 and challenged rival Marco Rubio to do the same, another salvo in their escalating U.S. Senate race.
"We are confident that Speaker Rubio will deliver on his promise to release his tax returns as well and, in order to be open and forthright with voters, will do so immediately," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
The Rubio campaign said the former House speaker intends to release his after the 2009 return is completed but did not say when the records would be made public.
Crist's returns are pedestrian, showing modest income for a top state official and few investments. His adjusted gross income for 2008 was $133,527. He filed a separate return than his wife, Carole. A renter, he still lists his parents' St. Petersburg home as his main address.
He has also filed the returns each year with his financial disclosure form, indicating Thursday's move was a political calculation from a candidate who once seemed a shoo-in and now is trailing badly in the polls.
In addition to trying to cast himself as exceedingly transparent, Crist and supporters have been nagging Rubio about his personal finances, questioning how he supports his family and seizing on reports that Rubio double-billed the Republican Party and state taxpayers for several plane fights to Tallahassee while he was in the Legislature.
Rubio said it was an oversight and that he is taking steps to address the situation.
The move comes as Crist and Rubio prepare for a live debate Sunday morning on Fox News Sunday. Crist will likely make an issue of Rubio's tax returns and reports that Rubio rang up big bills on a Florida Republican Party-issued American Express card.
"It's understandable that Charlie Crist would prefer to talk about the IRS today instead of the FEC (Federal Election Commission)," Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said, referring to a St. Petersburg Times story Thursday showing the Crist campaign has enjoyed some questionable expenses on a party American Express account.