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Corruption Chronicles

Fla. GOP Under Criminal Probe

Florida’s Republican Party is being criminally investigated by the feds for allowing elected officials and their staff to illegally go on wild personal spending sprees with tax-exempt political funds.

Several federal agencies—including the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service—are conducting the widespread probe which is focusing on some of the state’s most high-profile politicians, including the party’s frontrunner for an open U.S. Senate seat, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.

A  Florida newspaper investigation recently revealed that Rubio, the Sunshine State’s new Republican darling, billed the party for more than $100,000 worth of highly questionable items during the two years that he served as House Speaker. The charges included repairs to the family minivan, grocery bills, airline tickets for his wife and purchases from various retailers near his home. Rubio also charged the party for dozens of meals during the annual lawmaking session in Tallahassee, even though he received taxpayer subsidies for food.

Last month a complaint was filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics accusing Rubio, a Cuban-American from Miami, of misspending donations to the Republican Party of Florida and his political committees to subsidize his lifestyle. The complaint also accuses Rubio of using his public office to get an unadvertised job at a public university when it was cutting its workforce.

Rubio is not the only one in trouble. The former state party chairman (Jim Greer) and executive director (Delmar Johnson) are also suspected of misusing their party credit cards for personal expenses. Political parties are tax exempt and are only allowed to spend money on political activities such as fundraising, running campaigns and registering voters.

In Florida Republicans dominate state government and the party’s coffers are routinely filled with millions of dollars from lobbyists and special interests. Elected officials and their staff have long been suspected of spending the money illegally with no oversight.

 


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