Wednesday, April 21, 2010

American Express: 'Don't Leave for Prison Without It'

"Political parties... are only allowed to spend money on political activities, such as fundraising, running campaigns and registering voters."
-- Miami Herald, April 21, 2010
The big news in Florida today is that the IRS, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the North District of Florida in Tallahassee, and the FBI are investigating top officials of the Florida Republican Party, including the leading Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio, "to determine whether they misused their party credit cards for personal expenses." The Miami Herald reports that the probe could lead to criminal charges of tax evasion and making false statements under oath.

The report of an investigation should come as no surprise. The scandalous misuse of Republican Party credit cards has been in the state's headlines for months. According to the St. Petersburg Times, at least $1.8 million was rung up in American Express charges to party credit cards "in 2008 alone."

Rubio himself spent more than $100,000 in the two-year period from November, 2006 to November 2008. Among other items he billed as G.O.P. "political" expenses were:

• $765 at Apple's online store for "computer supplies."
• $25.76 from Everglades Lumber for "supplies."
• $53.49 at Winn-Dixie in Miami for "food."
• $68.33 at Happy Wine in Miami for "beverages'' and "meal."
• $78.10 for two purchases at Farm Stores groceries in suburban Miami.
• $412 at All Fusion Electronics, a music equipment store in Miami, for "supplies."

The Miami Herald adds today:
The charges included repairs to the family minivan, grocery bills, plane tickets for his wife, and purchases from retailers ranging from a wine store near his home to Apple's on-line store. Rubio also charged the party for dozens of meals during the annual lawmaking session in Tallahassee, even though he received taxpayer subsidies for his meals.
* * *
Rubio acknowledged in February that he double-billed state taxpayers and the party for several plane flights from South Florida to Tallahassee. He said he would pay the party back about for eight flights totaling about $3,000, but the party said Tuesday it had not received a check.
Other news reports have described how top Republicans in Florida paid with Other People's Plastic hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of claimed "political" expenses such as jewelry and sporting goods. Among others, the FBI is investigating disgraced former Speaker of the State House of Representatives Ray Sansom, whose family traveled to England on the G.O.P.'s AmEx ticket, racking up "nearly $40,000 at a London hotel, and more than $3,600 in sightseeing expenses."

"Political activities" all, we are sure.

In addition to Rubio and Sansom, the St. Pete Times reports "ex-state party chairman Jim Greer and ex-party executive director Delmar Johnson" are being investigated "to determine whether they misused their party credit cards for personal expenses... ."

All of which will make absolutely no difference in the upcoming Florida primary or general election. As John Cole puts it:
There is simply no greater achievement in the modern conservative movement than becoming a martyr. Accused by the 'Obama IRS' and the “lamestream media” of wrongdoing? They’ll rally around [Rubio] even if it turns out he was using the card to pay for gay sex with aborted fetuses in a bondage-themed club. He doesn’t have to explain anything - all he has to do is deny it and play the victim, and let the “principled conservatives” in the wingnut wurlitzer and the blogosphere do the rest.

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