Former House Speaker Marco Rubio - who is campaigning today in Central Florida - weighed in on several topics during a lengthy phone interview this morning.
Rubio, who has been getting a surge of publicity lately in his bid against Gov. Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate, answered questions about Ray Sansom, party credit cards, and his expectation that Crist will soon ramp up negative attacks on him.
Rubio, who had a Republican Party of Florida credit card during his term as speaker and during the campaign period before he became Speaker in Nov. 2006, said that he supports showing credit card statements provided that everyone's records are shown at the same time. There have been calls by editorial boards and the Democrats for the RPOF to disclose credit card statements in the wake of disclosures that Sansom rang up more than $180,000 on his party card.
"If the party releases everyone's records, I have no problem with that,'' said Rubio.
Rubio said the procedure in place when he had a party card required him to go over the statement once a month and to personally pay any expenses that were not connected to his political work. Rubio said the American Express card he had would reflect negatively on his own personal credit rating if the bills were not timely paid. He said there were times that he didn't have the card and instead it was used by his travel agent.
Rubio said nearly all of his travel expenses as speaker were placed on the card because he did not want accusations that he was getting taxpayers to pay for events where he may have been talking about property tax reform or other legislative issues he was pushing.
Regarding Sansom's indictment, Rubio said that while there remains a "presumption of innocence" for the former Speaker that the indictment makes it clear that the $6 million of the appropriation for the Destin Airport was directed "solely" by then House budget chairman Sansom.
Rubio said that Crist probably knew more about the appropriation for the Destin Airport than he did as speaker because he was allowed to request information about all items in the budget.
"You could argue the governor knew more about this than I did,'' said Rubio. "He knew more about it than anyone from the Legislature because he had the power to veto it.''
Regarding his rival, Rubio said he is "absolutely" convinced that Crist will go negative against him at some point although he said that most of those focusing on the campaign right now are "insiders."
"The minute he goes negative he's going to have debate me,'' said Rubio. "There are differences in our record, in our beliefs, and our public statements."
Rubio says he already knows where some potential attacks will come from, including his support of raising the state's sales tax in exchange for getting rid of some of the property taxes charged to residents. Citing Crist's support of a cigarette tax hike, he said that "I'm the only guy in the race who didn't raise taxes."
When asked about the Legislature's use of increasing property values to increase funding for education during his eight years in office, Rubio argued that this was not the same thing because he didn't raise the underlying tax rate. "That wasn't that we said, let's go out and raise property taxes,'' said Rubio.
But wasn't that the same defense used by local governments during the contentious property tax debate under Rubio's watch? Weren't they doing the same thing, just using the extra money generated by the run-up in values instead of raising the actual millage rate? Rubio responded by saying he couldn't do anything about it until he took over as speaker.
"That's what we tried to stop,'' Rubio said.