THE BLOG
05/06/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Marco Rubio's GOP Spending Spree

In the T.V. show, "I Love Lucy," Ricky Ricardo had a statement he would unleash when he believed that Lucy had been involved in mischief. He would walk into his home after work and yell across the room in a heavy Cuban accent, "Lucy, You gotta some 'splainin' to do!" Ricky was usually right about his Lucy suspicions. He would catch her writing checks for scams that Lucy was always desperate to conceal. She spent Ricky's money on dozens of secret schemes that usually ended up with a disastrous ending for Lucy and Ricky.

In the last weeks, news stories have begun to develop that should cause teaparty Republicans to yell across the room, "Marco Rubio, You gotta some 'splainin' to do!"

The Rubio story was barely noticeable when it first emerged. We had a Cuban-American conservative poster boy in a heated Senate Republican primary running against Florida Governor Charlie Crist. The headline to the early stories was that Rubio had charged more than $100,000 on his GOP American Express card. Republican leaders were quietly upset that the new face for ultra-conservative politics had used GOP money to pay for bottles of liquor, groceries, personal travel, family car repair and $130-haircuts. GOP critics complained that donors who gave money to the party did not anticipate that one-hundred thousand dollars worth of their contributions would be used as mad money by Rubio. From there, the story began to grow because of the way Rubio handled the first spending spree disclosures. Rather than denying the stories as untrue, Rubio handlers merely whined that it was unfair that the details about the credit card scheme were leaked. Rubio complained that exposing his GOP credit card info was "appalling" political conduct.

Crist handlers threw gasoline on the emerging story with their sound bite, "American Express Rubio Never Leaves Home Without it."

But this story has potential to become much bigger than petty state politics and a Florida Senate race. The story that continues to develop is not merely about Rubio's purchases of liquor and $130 haircuts.

When Rubio appeared as a keynote speaker at the conservative movement's biggest annual meeting in Washington three weeks ago, the conservatives made it clear that Rubio was supposed to be the young Cuban-American who would re-energize an old struggling movement. The ultra-right conservatives' "all in" attitude with Rubio is looking more and more like a risky bet as the credit card fiasco continues to become material for a media feeding frenzy that will not go away simply because Rubio spins the story as small and unfair.

Political scandals usually start small ... just ask one-time presidential hopeful John Edwards. Already Florida's neo-con golden boy hopeful is having to begin answering questions about airplane tickets he double-billed to state taxpayers. The next questions usually are about where he went and who traveled with him. At Rubio's keynote speech in D.C., he told his frenetic adoring crowd that "midterm election will be a referendum on our nation's identity." I have a hunch that before the Crist political camp is through with Rubio, the neo-cons will be experiencing more of a referendum on Rubio's real identity.

Stay tuned. This story may have a Lucille Ball ending.