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Sansom used Rubio to justify money grab

Why did Ray Sansom go after a $6 million airport building that would ruin his political career?

Marco Rubio.

Or so Sansom says.

The detail is one of many that could have come out had Sansom not resigned from the House on Sunday, hours before the House was to put him on trial for allegedly violating House ethics rules.

As his legal problems mounted last year, Sansom told House communications director Jill Chamberlin that while he served as House budget writer, then-House Speaker Rubio called and said the Senate had more school construction money in its budget.

Rubio, Sansom said, told him to "even it out."

So Sansom, R-Destin, said that's why he went after $6 million for what he insisted would be an emergency operations and training center, to be maintained by the college where he would later get a job.

Evidence has shown that Sansom's friend, Jay Odom, wanted to use the space at Destin Airport as a hangar for his corporate jet business.

It's not uncommon for either legislative chamber to try to size up the other's budget, and there is no evidence Rubio or anyone else knew that the building could have been used by Odom.

And Sansom got a lot more than the $6 million. Over the two years he controlled the House purse strings, Northwest Florida State College got $35 million in extra or accelerated funding.

Rubio, now in a heated Republican Senate primary race against Gov. Charlie Crist, has said he delegated authority to Sansom.

"This is simply not true," said Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Burgos of Sansom's account. "As it has been well documented, Marco Rubio was not aware of any inappropriate projects deceptively inserted in the budget."

Crist said he too was unaware of Odom's role and therefore he did not veto the project, even though it circumvented normal budget procedure.

Among other disclosures in the case prepared by House special prosecutor Melanie Hines:

• Sansom donated $6,000 from his political campaign account to Northwest Florida State College two months before he was given a $110,000 part-time job there. Sansom had contributed before, but in far less amounts.

• Witnesses suggested that college president Bob Richburg would have become chancellor of a new state college system he and Sansom helped create through legislation in 2008. It was assumed Sansom would take over as president, witnesses said.

Sansom used Rubio to justify money grab 02/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 11:18pm]

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