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  1. Florida Politics

Ethics panel dismisses 2010 claim about Rubio

Published Jul. 28, 2012

The Florida Commission on Ethics dismissed a long lingering complaint against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday, clearing him of wrongdoing in questions surrounding his use of a state GOP-issued credit card.

"This was a politically motivated and frivolous complaint from the start, and Sen. Rubio is pleased that the commission dismissed it on all counts," spokesman Alex Burgos said.

The March 2010 ethics complaint came during Rubio's Senate campaign against then-Gov. Charlie Crist, and was filed by Michael D. Ryan of Fort Lauderdale, who said he based it on articles in the Tampa Bay Times (then the St. Petersburg Times) and Miami Herald.

The newspapers reported that Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House, routinely charged personal expenses to his party-issued credit card between 2006 and 2008.

Rubio said he repaid personal expenses. Others raised questions, such as the nearly $4,000 he billed the Republican Party of Florida for a rental car in Miami and repairs to his family minivan, which he said was damaged by a valet at a political event.

Rubio acknowledged double-billing state taxpayers and the party for eight plane fares to Tallahassee, calling it a mistake and repaid the party.

The ethics commission found no probable cause. But an investigator had harsh words for Rubio, saying the level of "negligence" exhibited by Rubio's confusion between GOP American Express and his own MasterCard and failing to recognize the error on monthly statements was "disturbing." But he concluded that the facts do not rise to level of "intentional wrongful act necessary to prove corrupt intent for successful prosecution."

Rubio refused to be interviewed by the investigator, filing an affidavit instead, according to the report. "I was offended by Mr. Rubio's refusal to be interviewed," commissioner Jean Larsen said during a hearing Friday. "Preparing a statement and having someone sign something is vastly different than eyeball to eyeball talking to someone. That just made me question more."

Rubio's lawyer, Robert Fernandez, said he believed Rubio cooperated fully.

Rubio earlier this year asked the ethics commission to wrap up its investigation — which threatened to hang over him as he entered the national political sphere and has landed on Mitt Romney's vice presidential shortlist.

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