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Rubio's spending targeted in ethics complaint

Former House Speaker Marco Rubio misspent donations to the Republican Party of Florida and his political committees "to subsidize his lifestyle," according to a sweeping complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The complaint filed by Michael D. Ryan, 55, of Fort Lauderdale also says Rubio used his public office to get an unadvertised job at Florida International University at a time when the school was laying off faculty members.

Ryan described himself in an interview Tuesday as a "retired businessman who is sick of all the politics." He said he used to be registered as a Republican but hasn't voted in years and has "zero political agenda."

Ryan gave $2,300 to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2007 because, he said, he was in business with one of her supporters, basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Rubio's U.S. Senate campaign seized on the donation as evidence of Ryan's motives.

"This is clearly a political stunt by Democrats who are either working directly with Charlie Crist, or have already looked past Crist to a general election fight with Marco Rubio," said spokesman Alex Burgos. "This filing, by a maxed-out Hillary Clinton supporter, is laughable in its absurdity, completely false and totally without merit."

The complaint cited a series of stories by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, which found Rubio routinely charged personal expenses to his party-issued credit card between 2006 and 2008. Rubio said he repaid all personal expenses, though the Times/Herald found charges he did not cover. Rubio billed nearly $4,000 to the party for a rental car in Miami and repairs to his family minivan, for example, which he said was damaged by a valet at a political event.

The complaint points to Rubio's admission that he double-billed state taxpayers and the party for eight plane fares to Tallahassee. Rubio called it a mistake and said he would repay the party.

"One or two may be a mistake, but not eight," Ryan says in the complaint, which also criticizes the former Miami lawmaker for charging the party for meals at the same time he was receiving state subsidies for food and lodging in Tallahassee.

Before he became speaker, Rubio and his wife started two political committees to support conservative candidates that raised about $600,000. Rubio failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in expenses and concealed other purchases by lumping them in credit card charges.

"It appears that Mr. Rubio believes that PAC stands for 'personal access to cash,' " Ryan says in the complaint, calling it a "fraud upon his donors whose donations were solicited for political purposes, not to subsidize his lifestyle."

The committees operated from 2003 to 2005, which may put them outside the five-year statute of limitations for ethics complaints.

Miami Herald researcher Rachel Coleman contributed to this report.

Rubio's spending targeted in ethics complaint 03/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 10:29pm]
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