Rubio endorsed five candidates in the 2012 election. His PAC directed $38,941 to Republican Josh Mandel, who lost to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. The second biggest recipient of Rubio PAC money was Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who got $7,999. He also lost.
Rubio’s PAC gave smaller donations to two winning candidates: incoming Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada. Rubio also directed $5,412 to Republican Richard Mourdock, who lost a Senate bid in Indiana. The PAC sent another $15,000 to the National Republican Senate Committee, which helps Republicans throughout the country.
Some big donors said they are fine with Rubio’s spending. “I donated because I knew it was something that would enhance and assist the message of Marco Rubio, who I think is a bright star in our party,” said Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard, who gave $5,000. “If I want to give to other candidates, I can do that. I can write checks to them.”
“I trust Marco Rubio, I believe in him,’’ said Miami businesswoman and conservative activist Remedios Diaz, who also gave $5,000. “I think Marco is a rising star and he will use good judgment.”
Rubio’s biggest expense, totaling $478,060, was on strategic, communications, compliance, and fundraising consulting. Recipients included political strategists who helped him win election and have remained as political advisers, including Todd Harris, whose clients have included Sen. John McCain and former Gov. Jeb Bush; Heath Thompson, who worked on presidential campaigns for George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani; and Albert Martinez, who helped run Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign in Florida. Thompson and Harris, along with Malorie Miller, another Jeb Bush veteran, are partners in Something Else Strategies.
Printing and postage accounted for $308,703, while direct mail cost $303,808. The PAC spent $101,362 on Web services, $65,199 on travel and $28,355 on polling.
Overall, only 22 leadership PACs spent more than $1 million through mid-October in the 2012 cycle; Rubio’s PAC was the eighth-biggest spender of that group. But only one of those big PACs, the one controlled by Bachmann, gave less money to candidates than Rubio’s. Nineteen of the 22 gave more than $100,000.
Conant said on Thursday that Rubio doesn’t have any “specific plans” for the PAC “but we expect it will continue to be very active in the 2014 cycle since Republicans have so many opportunities to pick up seats.”
Reclaim America and other leadership PACs were required to report the money they raised and spent in the last three weeks of the campaign to the FEC by midnight Thursday.
Rubio’s spending on political activities outside his campaigns has drawn attention before. As a rising member of the Florida House, he stowed more than $600,000 in two political committees. Floridians for Conservative Leadership was set up to "support state and local candidates who espouse conservative government policies," according to IRS records. It raised about $228,000 but gave only $4,000 to candidates in 2003 and 2004, according to reports in The Miami Herald and The St. Petersburg Times. Most of the money was spent on political consultants and travel expenses.
Floridians for Conservative Leadership in Government raised more than $386,000. It helped fund Rubio’s “100 Ideas’’ initiative, a statewide tour to solicit public-policy ideas from the public, though about two-thirds of the money went to political consultants.
The newspapers also reported Rubio charged tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses to a Republican Party of Florida credit card in 2007 and 2008. Rubio insisted he covered all his personal expenses in payments to American Express, though he did reimburse the state party for several plane tickets that were double-billed to the party and state taxpayers.
Rubio went on to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010, in which he forced then-Gov. Charlie Crist out of the GOP primary. On his PAC website, Rubio says he won despite being dismissed by the Washington establishment. “That’s why Marco Rubio started Reclaim America PAC,” the website says, “in the hopes of supporting candidates just like him all across the country that will go to Washington to make a real difference for America’s future.”
Jim Tankersley contributed.