Not one, but two leading Republican/Tea Party figures under invetigation this AM for financial improprieties (theft). In one case it seems that may have been Republicans themselves who dropped the dime.
Caught in the Florida probe is Marco Rubio – the leading candidate for an open US Senate seat in Florida, and Tea Party darling…
Federal authorities raided a government-funded clinic run by the state Senate’s majority leader, one day after New York’s attorney general accused him of siphoning money from it.
About a dozen FBI and IRS agents appeared Wednesday at the Soundview Healthcare Network in the Bronx, where a big canopy above the front door lists Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. as its president and CEO.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced a lawsuit accusing Espada of siphoning $14 million from the clinic. It said the money was used for lavish restaurant meals, trips to Las Vegas and Espada’s campaign.
Espada called it a litany of falsehoods. On Tuesday afternoon, he accused the Democratic attorney general of a politically motivated attack. He also accused Cuomo of tapping the phone lines used by himself and his relatives and of taking a “steamroller approach” against political enemies, a reference to the term disgraced and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer once used for himself.
In the civil suit, Cuomo also accused Espada of getting the Soundview Board of Directors which he controls to give him a guaranteed $9 million severance package which, if was paid out, would bankrupt the clinic.
Cuomo had said a criminal investigation is under way and that charges against Espada could come soon. He said it was a matter of “legal strategy” to take the route of a civil lawsuit on Tuesday, but told reporters “stay tuned.”
Then there is this one, which may have some serious implications to the Senate Election this year in Florida. Seems a former Republican staffer has been talking about possibly millions of dollars in personal expenses charged against the Republican Party using the Party’s American Express cards. These expenses would apparently put the HNIC, Michael Steele to shame!
Federal law enforcement agencies have launched a criminal investigation into the use of American Express cards issued by the Republican Party of Florida to elected officials and staff, according to sources familiar with the probe.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Tallahassee, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service are all involved in the probe, which grew out of the state investigation into former House Speaker Ray Sansom. He was indicted on criminal charges that he stashed $6 million in the state budget for an airplane hangar for a friend and campaign donor.
In the federal case, Sansom and others could be charged with making false statements on their tax returns and tax evasion.
A spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida, Katie Gordon, said she could not confirm the investigation nor make any comments. Coming in a high-stakes election year, the investigation could expose the inner-workings of a party that has dominated state government and raked in millions of dollars from lobbyists and special interests.
Meanwhile, in a separate inquiry, the IRS is also looking at the tax records of at least three former party credit card holders — former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, ex-state party chairman Jim Greer and ex-party executive director Delmar Johnson — to determine whether they misused their party credit cards for personal expenses, according to a source familiar with the preliminary inquiry.
Political parties, which are tax exempt, are only allowed to spend money on political activities, such as fundraising, running campaigns and registering voters. While it’s commonplace for party officials and politicians to wine and dine donors, the Florida party allowed credit cardholders to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges with little oversight.
The IRS opened the so-called “primary” investigation into Rubio, the leading Republican candidate for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat, and the two state GOP ex-officials to see if there’s enough evidence to support a full-fledged criminal probe, according to a source familiar with the IRS examination.
Rubio billed the party for more than $100,000 during the two years he served as House speaker, according to credit card statements obtained by The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times. The charges included repairs to the family minivan, grocery bills, plane tickets for his wife, and purchases from retailers ranging from a wine store near his home to Apple’s on-line store. Rubio also charged the party for dozens of meals during the annual lawmaking session in Tallahassee, even though he received taxpayer subsidies for his meals.
Rubio said the billings all related to party business — the minivan, for example, was damaged by a valet at a political function — and that he repaid the party for about $16,000 in personal expenses.