In a development that could change the dynamics in one of the most closely-watched races of the year, the Miami Herald reports that federal investigators have begun several probes into spending and tax records at the Florida Republican party — including an investigation into the finances of Senate candidate Marco Rubio.
That investigation, run by the IRS, stems from an existing scandal surrounding the use of Florida GOP-issued American Express cards by elected officials and members of the party organization. The list of officials under investigation includes Rubio, and is essentially a search for evidence that could lead to future charges.There is a second, criminal investigation into the state GOP underway. The Herald reports the FBI, IRS and U.S. attorney’s office are investigating former state House Speaker Ray Sansom, who has already been indicted on state charges “that he stashed $6 million in the state budget for an airplane hangar for a friend and campaign donor,” according to the paper.
In the separate Rubio probe, which is not criminal, the IRS is digging into the tax records of former state party officials and elected Republicans — including Rubio and former state GOP chair Jim Greer — to “determine whether they misused their party credit cards for personal expenses,” according to the Herald.
The party credit card has already been a hassle for Rubio. In February, Gov. Charlie Crist’s campaign attacked Rubio over allegations that he used his Florida GOP-issued American Express to pay for thousands of dollars in personal expenses while he was state House Speaker.
The IRS investigation appears to cover those allegations, as the Herald reports:
At this stage of the IRS investigation, agents are looking at federal tax records, state financial disclosure forms and other documents to see whether Rubio, Greer and [former state GOP executive director Delmar] Johnson may have personally benefited from using their GOP American Express cards without reporting or paying taxes on additional income.
Should the IRS find anything amiss in the tax records, it could result in “a full-fledged criminal probe.”
Rubio strenuously denied any wrongdoing in February, and his campaign told the Herald that the same goes for the current IRS probe.
“There is absolutely nothing to this,” Rubio adviser Todd Harris told the paper.
Read the whole Miami Herald report here.