Florida GOP credit cardproblems must be addressed

Now is the time for Florida students to prepare for the upcoming election season. No one should wait until they get in the booth to decide whom to vote for.

As heated as this election season is shaping up to be, voters need to play closer attention than ever, especially when it comes to the battle for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Republicans have dominated Florida politics, but that may change this year as credit card scandals continue to rock the state’s GOP.

Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio has a strong lead over Gov. Charlie Crist for the party’s Senate nomination, but it may be threatened by a federal probe into his use of a party-issued credit card.

Earlier this year, several state GOP leaders were accused of using party-issued American Express credit cards to make expensive personal purchases. The cards were intended to be used for expenses related to party activities like fundraising or campaigning.

A St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald story revealed about $458,000 in questionable charges that were accrued by Rubio and two other GOP leaders – former House Speaker Ray Sansom and Dean Cannon – over a nearly two-year period. Charges included stays at expensive hotels and meals at five-star restaurants, as well as purchases at Toys “R” Us and Best Buy.

Sansom was indicted on criminal charges for using $6 million in the state budget to fund an airplane hangar for a friend and campaign donor.

Now a probe involving the U.S. attorney’s office in Tallahassee, the FBI and the International Revenue Service is investigating Rubio, ex-party chairman Jim Greer and ex-party executive director Delmar Johnson, according to the Miami Herald.

Greer is at the center of the controversy after spending nearly $500,000 on his lavish lifestyle.

Rubio is denying wrongdoing.

“There is absolutely nothing to this,” Rubio campaign adviser Todd Harris said to the Herald on Tuesday. “Anyone who is looking into it or investigating will quickly come to the same conclusion.”

There seems to be some ambiguity between what a party expense is and what a personal expense is. For example, Rubio used his card for repairs to the family minivan, but said it was damaged by a valet at a political function, according to the Herald.

It’s hard to say whether Rubio intentionally scammed the system, but if he did, voters should respond accordingly. Students need to continue to watch this situation as it unfolds, so they can make an educated decision in November.