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As House Speaker Marco Rubio asks lobbyists to open their wallets for his political causes, he is treading a well-worn and treacherous path. The fact that he did not create either of the groups he wants to enrich does not necessarily improve the aroma, and his public position demands that his private fundraising be as transparent as possible.
One of the groups, 100 Ideas.Org Inc., uses the phrase that is essentially Rubio's political calling card. He spent a year traveling Florida to advance his "100 Ideas" approach to governing, compiled it into a book and Web site, and has been credited by other states that copied his initiative. Yet Rubio, in a letter to House general counsel Jeremiah Hawkes, makes the newly created corporation sound like a foreign government.
"I will not participate in the activities of the corporation as they relate to its mission," he wrote, "nor will I lend my likeness or name to any informational, educational, promotional or any other such material produced by the corporation."
But Rubio likely will raise bundles of money for it. He also intends to do the same for Floridians for Property Tax Reform Inc., and in each case he has conveniently received the legal blessing of his general counsel. As with 100 Ideas.Org, Rubio has invested much of his time as speaker in high-profile advocacy of property tax relief. And, as with 100 Ideas, he says he will have no formal role in the group.
Rubio's spokeswoman said this month he will consider disclosing any contributions that are made to the groups on his behalf. That would be a positive step. Such transparency could go a long way toward removing suspicions that arise when lobbyists contribute money at the same time they are seeking legislative favors that only Rubio is in a position to grant.
The disclosure issue aside, though, Rubio is playing the kind of money game that has tainted previous presiding officers. If he is trying to finance a vehicle to sustain his political viability upon leaving office next year, he may find that the effort will backfire. It can hardly be described as in character with his "100 ideas," which he once described as "a catalyst for solving the day-to-day problems of our people."
For Rubio, extreme caution is advised. His 100 ideas won't convert easily from legislative fodder to political barter.
[Last modified November 25, 2007, 20:09:44]