As Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio's power grew, his outside income grew with it, according to nine years worth of tax returns the former state House speaker released to The Associated Press on Friday.
Rubio entered the House in a special election in January 2000 and earned $82,710 that year. In 2003, he earned $122,718. His income shot up to $301,864 in 2004, the year before his House colleagues elected him speaker designate. In 2008, his final year in office and his second as speaker, he earned $399,187. His House salary was $45,000 that year - most of the rest of his income came from practicing law.
Rubio earned more than $300,000 a year during the four years he worked for the Miami law firm Broad and Cassel, where he specialized in land use, zoning and real estate law and provided advice on local government affairs. He also helped expand the firm and attracted new clients, his campaign said. He left the firm shortly after leaving office in November 2008 and began his own legal and consulting businesses.
"There's no question that becoming speaker of the Florida House gives you a range of qualifications and experiences that are marketable," campaign adviser Todd Harris said. "This is certainly not something that is unique to Marco Rubio. I think any person who achieves a high profile through any demanding job probably has a set of skills that the private sector finds appealing."
Rubio didn't release his 2009 tax return. His campaign said he asked the IRS for an extension and that he would release it later. Rubio also asked for an extension for his 2008 tax return and ended up paying $380 in interest and penalties. His campaign said that in each year, he sought the extension because the paperwork became more complicated when Rubio started his own business.
He also released the financial disclosure form Senate candidates are required to file, showing that he's made nearly $364,000 since the beginning of last year, including nearly $73,000 from Florida International University, where he works as a visiting professor. Most of the remaining income came from his businesses.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for Senate as an independent candidate, has questioned the ethics of Rubio taking a job at the university after helping it with state budget allocations. Crist had been running as a Republican until polls showed he had almost no chance of beating Rubio, a favorite of conservatives and tea party activists, in the August primary.
Rubio has been scrutinized for his use of a Republican Party of Florida credit card and for money he raised and spent through political committees he formed when he was in the House leadership. The committees were supposed to help House candidates, but little of the money went directly to candidates and some benefited Rubio's relatives.
While Rubio charged some personal expenses on the party card, he has said he paid American Express directly for those.
Rubio provided his 1040 income tax forms, but he isn't releasing to the public forms detailing his deductions, such as interest on his mortgage, property taxes and charitable donations. The campaign made the documents available to The Associated Press.
He also didn't provide the original 1040 for his 2003 return, releasing instead a transcript from the IRS detailing his income and taxes paid. His campaign said Rubio couldn't find the original and has requested a copy from the IRS, which he will release after he receives it.
Among other items in the documents released:
- Rubio owes between $100,000 and $250,000 in student loans.
- He has six college savings accounts for his four children, including four in the state's prepaid tuition program.
- He paid $49,264 in interest on his mortgage in 2007.
- He paid $14,299 in property taxes in 2006, an amount that dropped to $11,604 in 2008.
- He made about $66,000 in charitable contributions over six years, which his campaign said went to a community church.
In 2008, Rubio's final year as speaker, he earned almost $400,000. Most of that was from practicing law.
Rubio released tax returns Friday to The Associated Press dating from 2000 until 2008. His campaign said he requested an extension on his 2009 tax return and plans to release it later.
Rubio faces a three-way race in November after his lead ahead of the GOP primary prompted Gov. Charlie Crist to declare himself an independent. Kendrick Meek is the likely Democratic nominee.