The head of the major Super PAC backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for president, Mike Murphy, praised the efforts of a donor to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to attack billionaire 2016 GOP frontrunner Donald Trump by skywriting nasty messages at the Rose Bowl on Friday.
“Not us but can’t argue with it!” Murphy, the head of Right to Rise USA, Tweeted on Friday with an image of the anti-Trump skywriting.
Because Murphy was behind a previous anti-Trump effort involving a plane—he hired a plane to fly above a Trump rally in Alabama with an anti-Trump banner on it—people suspected that Murphy was behind this latest effort.
But it turns out, actually, that Rubio donor Luther Stan Pate IV—a Tuscaloosa real estate tycoon worth millions—was the one behind the effort.
Thus far, Rubio is keeping the maximum-allowable-by-law political contribution to his campaign that Pate made—all $2,700 worth.
Pate and his allies—and Rubio’s allies—have been desperately trying to separate Rubio from the underhanded effort. Pate claimed in an interview with Breitbart News that he’s not backing any particular candidate, and in addition to a private meeting he had with Rubio a year ago, he also hosted Bush aboard his private jet.
“I have not had any conversations with any campaign in almost a year,” he said in the interview with Breitbart News. “This is all me.”
Pate also told Breitbart News he’d support Democrat Hillary Clinton in a general election over Republican Trump.
But Pate hasn’t donated to any 2016 presidential candidates or campaigns except Rubio’s, Federal Election Commission records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show.
That’s a stark difference from Pate’s behavior in previous election cycles. FEC records from the 2008 presidential election cycle show he backed both Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani on the GOP side, and on the Democratic side Pate backed both John Edwards and Chris Dodd for president.
What’s more, in the 2010 Senate election in Florida, Pate supported Charlie Crist—the then-Republican-turned-independent who’s since left the GOP for the Democratic Party—against Rubio. Rubio’s catch phrase in that election against Crist was that Crist “would say or do anything to win an election.”
Rubio has broken many promises he made to the voters of Florida since being elected to the U.S. Senate—most notably that he wouldn’t back an amnesty bill, but then he went and championed one with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as part of the “Gang of Eight,” which also included the now-indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)—so it’s no surprise that Rubio is keeping money in his presidential campaign coffers from Crist donors who engage in tactics like this against other Republicans.
Rubio’s team winning praise from Bush’s team isn’t likely to help Rubio convince anyone he’s still a conservative. Rubio is now competing in the establishment non-conservative lane for the GOP nomination, having overtaken Bush in polling. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Bush, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are also competing in the establishment lane, while Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and several others compete in the conservative lane.