Gov. Charlie Crist, facing an exceedingly difficult Republican U.S. Senate primary, has launched a second blistering television attack against former House Speaker Marco Rubio.
In his first ad, Crist portrayed Rubio as a greedy politician who helped fund his personal lifestyle with Republican Party donations. (You can see our analysis of one of the ad's claims here.)
Crist's new ad, which the campaign released April 12, 2010, seeks to link Rubio with indicted former House Speaker Ray Sansom.
"Both steered millions of taxpayer money into two colleges," a female narrator says, followed by a male voice that adds, "Then, received cushy jobs from the colleges."
The ad then flashes to a booking mug shot of Sansom and a picture of Rubio. Under Sansom's picture is the word "indicted." Under Rubio's picture is the word "subpoenaed."
This item will explore whether Rubio was indeed "subpoenaed," and examine links between Sansom and Rubio.
First, about Sansom.
Sansom was Rubio's budget chief in 2007 and 2008 and succeeded Rubio as speaker in November 2008. On the day Sansom took over from Rubio, he also took a $110,000 job at Northwest Florida State College in the Florida Panhandle. A subsequent St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald investigation showed how Sansom had steered $35 million to the school. Included was $6 million for an airport building that one of Sansom's friends wanted to use for his corporate jet business.
The airport building deal led a grand jury to indict Sansom. That case is ongoing. The Florida House also sought to investigate the deal, but Sansom abruptly resigned before a scheduled ethics trial was to start.
What links Rubio to all this?
Nothing, really, has been established.
Yes, Sansom was Rubio's budget chief and the two were close, but Rubio contends that he knew nothing about the $6 million for the airport, saying the project was directed "solely" by Sansom, and that the specific language of the budget request was misleading.
Ironically, it's the same answer offered by Crist -- who could've vetoed the project, but didn't.
The 35-second TV ad builds its case by first linking Rubio and Sansom as close colleagues in the Florida House (they were). Next the ad says both Rubio and Sansom helped colleges get money from the Legislature and then took jobs from those institutions (We already discussed Sansom; Rubio did help Florida International University get $21 million for a hurricane center and medical school, records kept by the governor's office show, and then took a $69,000 part-time teaching job with FIU after leaving office).
The next frames of the ad are where the paths diverge. But you wouldn't know it by watching.
Sansom was indicted for his part in the airport hangar deal. And Rubio was subpoenaed, as the ad says, but not as part of his dealings with FIU.
The subpoena was part of Sansom's House ethics trial in February 2010. Sansom's attorney Gloria Fletcher included Rubio among 35 potential witnesses that included current and former state legislators. (See the list here).
The subpoena was formally issued Feb. 12, 2010. (See it here).
We should note that Rubio never received the subpoena, his campaign says. And a subpoena doesn't suggest in any way Rubio did something wrong. Sansom, meanwhile, resigned on Feb. 21, 2010, the day before the ethics trial was to start. The House canceled the trial as a result, and Rubio never testified.
To recap, while the ad tries to draw similarities between Sansom's history and Rubio's, Rubio has not been accused of wrongdoing in his association with Florida International University. In fact, Rubio took his job with FIU only as he was leaving the state House -- when his power was fading -- while Sansom took his higher-paying job as he was becoming one of the state's most powerful legislators. The differences are stark enough that overall impression caused by the ad can be quite misleading.
The ad rightly says that Rubio was subpoenaed, but the overall connection between Rubio and Sansom is flimsy at best. First, a subpoena was issued, but apparently never delivered. Additionally, a subpoena isn't an indication Rubio did something wrong. It just means he could have been called to testify. As such we rate the statement Half True.