Rubio has been criticized in campaign ads for using his Republican Party American Express card to pay for personal expenses, including repairs to his family minivan, grocery bills, plane tickets for his wife, and retail purchases. Rubio blamed accounting errors and said he has reimbursed the party for over $16,000 in expenses. He reportedly racked up over $100,000 in expenses on the card while he was House Speaker, but he claimed most of the expenses were business related.
Any personal expenses that were not reimbursed by him would have to be claimed as personal income on his tax returns. The IRS is reportedly investigating his expenses, along with those of two other state party officials, according to the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times.
Rubio is the Republican front runner for the Senate seat formerly held by Republican Mel Martinez and currently held, temporarily, by Governor Charlie Crist’s appointee, George LeMieux.
The negative publicity of an IRS investigation of Mr. Rubio’s finances will, of course, redound to the benefit of whomever the Democrats nominate to run against him in November.¹
But, since the investigation will be conducted by an agency that is under Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s supervision and control, I assume Mr. Rubio will be given a break if he prepared his tax returns using TurboTax.
¹ I don’t believe in conspiracies. Consequently, I am not suggesting that the Obama administration is intentionally using the IRS to investigate Mr. Rubio in order to give a political advantage to Mr. Rubio’s Democratic opposition. But having said that, I don’t think anyone would deny that the mere fact of an IRS investigation will tilt the minds of some independent voters against Mr. Rubio.
Some will argue that if Rubio did nothing wrong and can prove it, the IRS audit will work to his advantage. But this is true only if the IRS investigation is completed and Mr. Rubio vindicated before the voters go to the polls in seven months.