By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has for years cultivated a reputation as a debt maven. He co-introduced a bill in September to “begin to rein in our mounting debt crisis.” A decade ago, Rubio told President Obama that under his leadership America was becoming a “deadbeat nation.”
Rubio, 50, knows a thing or two about debt and deadbeats. Six years after Florida’s senior senator folded his 2016 run for president, Rubio’s campaign still owes its vendors $827,657.12, federal election records show.
Yet Marco Rubio for Senate – a legally distinct entity from Marco Rubio for President – rolls on. Rubio’s Senate campaign has raised nearly $24.4 million, and as of the end of 2021 had nearly $10.6 million cash on hand and no debt. His leadership PAC, Reclaim America, brought in another $460,000 last year, with reported cash on hand of $199,000.
Last week, the Federal Election Commission dinged Rubio’s Senate campaign with a letter threatening an enforcement action if it does not properly disclose the Virginia-based Take Back the Senate PAC as a joint fundraising representative on its statement of organization. The Take Back PAC supports numerous Republican senators.
In contrast, Rubio’s most likely opponent in November, U.S. Rep. Valdez “Val” Demings, D-Orlando, has raised $20.7 million since jumping into the race in June. Her campaign reported $8.2 million cash on hand and no debt as of Dec. 31.
As for 2024, Rubio appears to be keeping his presidential options open. In late August, he visited Iowa – traditionally the launching state for political primaries – for the first time since he ran for president. “I’m running for reelection in Florida to serve in the United States Senate,” Rubio told reporters after attending a fundraiser, according to the Des Moines Register. “I’m not having any conversations about running for president, but I have friends here.”
“Ultimately, I don’t know what the future will hold or what my life would look like in two years – or not to mention four years from now,” he said. “If I had described the world five years ago to any of you, you wouldn’t believe half the things that have happened in the last five years.”
RUBIO AND HIS GOP CREDIT CARD
Even as Rubio has been a public advocate for financial austerity, his personal financial management abilities have been under nearly constant scrutiny. After his 2000-2008 tenure in the Florida House, where he rose to Speaker, he came under fire for reportedly using a state GOP American Express card to charge thousands of dollars in personal home kitchen remodeling expenses. Rubio has said he paid those charges.
Similarly, Rubio told Miami Herald reporter Beth Reinhard in March 2010 that he paid thousands more to cover other charges made in his name on the party’s credit card.
“The cost for Marco Rubio’s four-day family reunion just north of the Florida-Georgia line: more than $10,000, billed to the Republican Party of Florida. When The Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times asked about the charges last month, Rubio blamed his travel agent for mistakenly using his party credit card to reserve the 20 hotel rooms, and said he collected checks from relatives to cover the charges. ‘I paid for the entire personal charge,’ Rubio said in a statement. ‘The Republican Party never paid for any of it,’” Reinhard’s story says.
The Times, now known as the Tampa Bay Times, and the Herald obtained Rubio party credit card statements from 2006-2007 that they reported then showed Rubio “routinely charged personal expenses on the card” including groceries, car repairs, computer supplies and wine. Rubio said her personally paid those charges, too.
Today, with 2020 earnings of $174,000 a year from his job as a senator plus another $23,000 salary from Florida International University where serves as a senior fellow, Rubio’s personal finances are less eventful. He was also paid $1,500 that year by the Penguin Publishing Group to write a forward to a book.
WILL RUBIO PAY OFF CAMPAIGN DEBT?
Rubio’s only liability listed on his 2020 annual federal financial disclosure, filed last May, is a large mortgage with Professional Bank of Coral Gables. The listed amount is between $500,000 and $1 million, due to federal requirements that eschew specifics and allow politicians’ assets and liabilities to be listed in broad ranges.
Rubio’s assets, not counting Florida Prepaid College Plans for each of his four children, are mostly held in three bank accounts and five mutual funds. The total range of those reported assets is between $71,000 and $240,000. That includes the value of Rubio’s lone stock holding, shares of Coca-Cola, worth between $1,000 and $15,000.
Rep. Demings earned the same $174,000 salary as a member of Congress in 2020, reporting other income of less than $600 interest. She owns condos in Washington and Jacksonville worth a total of between $350,000 and $750,000, a home in Orlando, with mortgages on all three properties. The largest mortgage, on her home, is between $500,000 and $1 million. Demings also reported outstanding auto loans and a credit card debt she valued at between $25,000 to $65,000.
With Rubio now more flush with cash, both personally and in his Senate campaign, will he pay off his presidential campaign’s large outstanding debts to companies like FLS Connect, a Minneapolis firm that did telemarketing, or GBP Media of Greenville, SC, which did media production work?
Federal election law appears to provide a way to pay that old debt that Rubio has yet to use. Funds can legally be transferred between a candidate’s previous federal campaign committee and his current campaign committee as long the funds being transferred don’t include any illegal contributions.