Marco Rubio asks Florida Ethics Commission to drop ‘baseless claim’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Two years later, Sen. Marco Rubio is urging the Florida Ethics Commission to finally wrap-up an investigation on him, which was filed by a Democratic political donor in 2010.

In a letter to the commission, Rubio asked the commission to, “please proceed as soon as possible to deal with this baseless claim once and for all.”

The complaint, filed by a retired businessman and Democratic donor named Michael D. Ryan, cited news stories about Rubio which surfaced during his 2010 primary campaign against then-Gov. Charlie Crist, alleging that he misused Republican campaign money for personal expenses.

In Florida, nearly anyone can file an ethics complaint — and they often do. This can lead to frivolous or politically-motivated complaints. According to the 2011 Ethics Commission Annual Report, “Of the 169 complaints received in 2011, 68 were dismissed for lack of legal sufficiency; 2 were dismissed because they were received within 5 days of an election; 77 were ordered to be investigated; 21 were pending legal sufficiency determination at the end of the year; and 1 was on hold for criminal investigation.”

Just six months ago, the Teamsters union filed an ethics complaint against Gov. Rick Scott.

The problem, of course, is that having an ethics complaint filed against you can create a presumption of guilt in the minds of some voters. (And having one drag on for years might imply there was something worth investigating. ) As Rubio argues in his letter to the commission, his political opponents will likely, “try to create the perception that this complaint has some merit by claiming that this process had been going on for two years.  Or they will simply try to claim that I am under some sort of ‘investigation’.”

It is unclear why the commission has dragged its feet. And while nobody is alleging the delay is politically motivated, it is interesting to note that six of the eight commission members either have ties to Democrats, or to former Gov. Crist.

Read the full text of Sen. Rubio’s letter to the Florida Ethics Commission here:

On March 24, 2010, in the midst of my campaign for the United States Senate, a Democratic donor told several Florida newspapers that he was filing an ethics complaint against me. The fact that he informed the media before he actually filed it was clear proof that it was a political move, designed to generate negative press coverage of me and ultimately to influence the elections. After the media article on March 24th, 2010, we heard nothing further about this complaint. I never received a copy of it from the State of Florida Commission on Ethics, no one from the Commission contacted me and in fact even the press never covered it again.

Then, on August 19, 2011,  over 16 months after the Democratic donor filed the complaint,  I received at one of my U.S. Senate offices located in Doral, Florida, a letter informing me a complaint had been filed. The complaint was filled with false information and reached absurd and incoherent conclusions. Furthermore, the Democratic donor based the entire complaint on press accounts, not on any actual knowledge or evidence. Nothing had been done on this matter for almost one year and a half.

After we were finally contacted by the Commission, we immediately responded by pointing out how baseless and ridiculous this complaint was. In fact, we were verbally informed that the professional staff at the Commission had recommended that the entire complaint be thrown out as legally insufficient. Thereafter, we were informed verbally, by telephone, that the vast majority of the complaint was in fact dismissed for being legally insufficient.

Since that time, we have moved swiftly in an attempt to get whatever is left in the complaint dismissed for lack of probable cause.

Even though I was under no obligation to do so, in November we voluntarily provided the Commission a significant amount of information that proved how false and baseless this complaint is.  Then, after seeing no action occurring, on our own initiative, we submitted a second letter in January of this year asking the Commission to complete its work on all this “as soon as possible in order to bring this matter to a resolution.”

And now today, on my own initiative, in addition to all the information we have made available in the past few months, I am providing you an affidavit addressing this matter.

It has been almost 2 years since this politically motivated complaint was filed. It was never properly served. No work was done on it at all for over 16 months. And now, after we were finally notified of its existence, another 6 months have passed with no action at all.

I have valid reasons for wanting this absurd complaint dismissed as soon as possible. Just this week, a publication in Washington published an article pointing out that the Democratic National Committee and at least one third party group affiliated with President Obama’s campaign are actively shopping misleading negative stories about me to the press.

As you know, virtually anyone can file an ethics complaint against any state elected official in Florida. As long as the complaint is drafted “correctly,” they all have to be “investigated” to determine if there is “probable cause” to proceed with a full investigation. After almost two years, this baseless complaint is still in the pre-probable cause stage. It is in the same posture that any “correctly” properly drafted complaint would be regardless of how untrue and outrageous the underlying allegations.

But our political opponents will be tempted to try to mischaracterize this process. They will try to create the perception that this complaint has some merit by claiming that this process had been going on for two years.  Or they will simply try to claim that I am under some sort of “investigation.” In fact, virtually nothing happened on it for 16 months and then again nothing happened on it for the last 6 months either.

Let’s be clear. This complaint was filed for political reasons, and those who support the direction this president is taking our country will undoubtedly attempt to exploit it for political reasons. I’m not going to let them do that.

I respectfully ask once again to please proceed as soon as possible to deal with this baseless claim once and for all.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Marco Rubio

Matt K. Lewis