Rubio’s Friends Just Won’t Go Away

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to voters at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum September 18, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. Eleven republican candidates each had twenty five minutes to talk to voters Friday at the Bons Secours Wellness arena in the upstate of South Carolina. (Photo by
Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Washington, DC

Is it a Jeb Bush oppo-drop, or solid journalism?

Whatever it is, Tim Mak at the Daily Beast reports on some close Florida associates of Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio that aren’t as far back in his past as he might like: Marco Rubio’s Slimy Pal Slithers Back.

Like it, or not, back when Marco Rubio was Speaker of the Florida House, Florida politics were notoriously dirty. Whether or not all of Rubio’s potential dirty laundry has been aired remains to be seen. Jeb Bush’s campaign recently hinted that there was more to come in that regard. Time will most likely tell. This below is old news via Rubio’s Wiki.

During his time as Speaker of the Florida House, Rubio shared a residence with another Florida State Representative, David Rivera; the two men co-owned the property in Tallahassee. The home later fell into foreclosure after deferring months of mortgage payments. This issue surfaced in June 2010, during Rubio’s run for the US Senate but was considered resolved according to Rubio’s spokesman.[35] In March 2015, Politico ran a story about this matter titled “Marco Rubio’s House of Horrors”,[36] about which media critic Howard Kurtz commented: “If this is the worst ‘scandal’ Rubio faces, he’s in good shape.”[37]

In 2010, Rubio was questioned about charges of nearly $110,000 made to his Republican Party American Express card during his two years as House speaker.[38][39] The records listed some personal items, including grocery bills, wine, and plane tickets for his wife. Rubio said the charges were legitimate Republican Party expenses and that he personally paid American Express more than $16,000 for expenses unrelated to the party.[40] The Florida Commission on Ethics later cleared Rubio of wrongdoing in his use of the state GOP-issued credit card.[41]

What’s new, as Mak reports, is that former Rep. David Rivera and former state Rep. Ralph Arza have now surfaced again for some reason.

As Sen. Marco Rubio emerges as a strong contender for the presidential nomination, the ghosts that have haunted his past are threatening to come back around for another pass.

It’s the scandal-ridden gang that won’t leave him alone: former Rep. David Rivera and former state Rep. Ralph Arza, who have been allies with Rubio since their political infancies, are both individuals with controversial pasts. Rivera has been under investigation as the alleged mastermind of a campaign finance scheme, and Arza was forced to resign from the Florida legislature in 2006 following two felony charges related to leaving a racial slur on a fellow representative’s voice mail.

The cloud of impropriety that hangs around Rivera and Arza should be noxious to a rising campaign with its eye on the White House. But both Arza and Rivera were spotted among other Rubio supporters as recently as the Republican presidential debates in Cleveland in August, three Republican sources tell The Daily Beast.

In fact, Rivera’s name came up at the recently reported Bush summit in Houston and, for whatever reason, Rubio hasn’t seemed quick to disassociate himself from his scandal plagued pals.

Opponents of the Florida senator’s campaign have seized on Rubio’s friendship with Rivera. During a presentation to donors last week in Houston, Jeb Bush’s campaign cited Rubio’s relationship with “scandal-tarred” Rivera as a reason why the senator is a “risky bet,” according to U.S. News & World Report.

The two may not realize that they are a liability for the Rubio campaign—or they may simply not care. There are certainly figures within the Rubio orbit who think the two are a distraction, and were irritated by their presence in Cleveland, but feel there is little they can do to prevent these former lawmakers from supporting him.

“Both Arza and Rivera would create political perception problems for Rubio,” wrote Manuel Roig-Franzia in the 2012 biography, The Rise of Marco Rubio. “But he had a tendency to stand by them, sometimes to his own detriment.”

There’s more via The Daily Beast but far from enough to derail Rubio, who is currently enjoying a rise in some polls. For now, it reads like more old smoke, than fire; however, one can surmise Team Jeb!, if no one else, is going to do everything they can to take a match to the freshman Senator’s presidential ambitions.

In a Washington Post profile of the Rivera-Rubio relationship in May, Rivera said that the two remained in touch. And in March, Rivera told Politico that the two had spoken “recently” by phone.

Rivera had been instrumental in launching and advancing Rubio’s political career, and for years the two were the closest of friends. When Rubio was formally voted in as speaker of the Florida House, for example, it was Rivera who nominated him.

In 2005 they purchased a home together in Tallahassee, which ultimately faced foreclosure at an inopportune time: just as Rubio was running for U.S. Senate. The house, which Politico called a “house of horrors” for Rubio’s political ambitions, was ultimately sold this year. (“I was discussing whether they needed a cleansing ritual with dead chickens, myself,” a family member of the couple who ultimately purchased the home told the Beast).

While Rubio publicly cut ties with Rivera, his former bestie has continued to get into trouble.