Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why Marco's Money Matters

When the New York Times speaks, it means a little bit more than other newspapers or media outlets. Don’t believe me? Consider the shit storm that has been kicked up in the wake of a story by Times reporters Steve Eder and Michael Barbaro about Marco Rubio’s checkered financial history and seeming use of his political positions for personal benefit.

Much of the pearl clutching at the Times questions the relevance of Rubio’s money problems. Indeed, none other than Jon Stewart dismissed the story as “inconsequential gossip.” And if all the story did was tell a tale of someone who accumulated a lot of student debt and then paid it off while living within his means, I would wholeheartedly concur with Stewart’s assessment, but the story is not that, it is more about how someone who claims to have humble origins and modest tastes, you know, like us “ordinary” Americans, actually used his cache and influence to personally enrich himself thanks to very wealthy patrons while doing things that were, at a minimum, ethically questionable.

It is fair to ask how someone who was toiling away at a $72,000 a year job as a land use attorney at a now-defunct law firm somehow parlayed that modest salary into a $300,000 a year job at a far more prominent law firm in three short years and just as he was about to ascend to the Speakership of the Florida House of Representatives. It is also fair to ask what it says about a candidate who puts family members on the payroll of his political action committees and uses a state party credit card to pay for personal expenses like home improvement projects. And why can’t we learn more about Norman Braman, a billionaire who briefly hired Mr. Rubio as an attorney prior to his taking his seat in the U.S. Senate, bankrolled a college professorship that Mr. Rubio secured at Florida International University, and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mr. Rubio or initiatives he supported and in return, received support from Mr. Rubio in securing state contracts.

Aren’t those precisely the types of things we should know about a candidate for President? Whether they are honest and trustworthy, do not abuse their position or have supporters who leverage campaign donations to receive government largesse? And if someone holds themself out as living the American Dream, why can’t we question the claim of a rags-to-riches story, especially one that already fell apart once when Mr. Rubio claimed his parents fled Castro’s Cuba?

The idea that Rubio is somehow relatable, or that the New York Times is trying to “poor-shame” him is laughable. Other than the fact that Rubio seems to have, like many Americans, a taste for living above his means, he is not like us in any way shape or form. We do not have the benefit of wealthy patrons ready to cushion our financial pitfalls. We also do not have the temerity to inveigh against others to be more responsible with their money, or to criticize government bloat while living a profligate lifestyle.

Rubio’s politics are hypocrisy of the first order. No one is criticizing Rubio for having student loans, but to spend lavishly on high-end cars, fancy homes, and a boat while claiming to understand the aspirations and hopes of the middle class does not even pass the laugh test. For Republicans, who are always searching for the whiff of scandal, why someone would allow a family member’s company to receive $90,000 in business from his political action committee is not only a totally appropriate question, but one that has to be asked and answered.

And if right wing commentators, and even those on the left, who, predictably, find such muck racking distasteful even if it is relevant, want to sweep this reporting under the rug, perhaps they should ask none other than Mitt Romney why it was that the people vetting Mitt’s running mates in 2012 flagged Mr. Rubio’s sketchy financial dealings as well. Surely, they had no political ax to grind other than making sure that their Cayman Islands-money-stashing boss was not coupled with a guy who was using-campaign-funds-for-private-benefit-and-relying-on-a-sugar-daddy-to-cover-his-expenses running mate, which makes perfect sense to me.

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