A curious item on the Marco Rubio for Senate FEC filing has been the subject of a couple of posts at TRR. And while the campaign has not responded to requests for information, there is new information to report.
First off, I reached out to the St. John Neumann school for comment, and got a call back from the Archdiocese of Miami, whose spokesman, Mary Ross Acosta, was authorized to speak for the school. Ms. Acosta said the check, made out on March 31st, was for a sponsorship for the school’s “first annual fishing tournament,” which was held in May, but that when the school’s principal saw that the check came from a political campaign, she rejected it, returned the check, and no donation was ultimately made. (The campaign told the SP Times’ Adam Smith they later voided the check.)
Ms. Acosta told me that to her knowledge, Rubio had no personal connection to the school, either as a parent or as an alumni, and she suggested that perhaps one of the volunteers putting the tournament together knew him and reached out. She also said a prospective flier with all of the sponsor logos was produced for the event with the Rubio campaign listed, but once the check was returned, the flier was never produced, so there is no copy they could send me.
A bit more checking, based on a tip from a TRR reader, revealed that some of that checks out, but that there is indeed a Rubio connection to the school. It turns out Rubio’s sister in law, maiden name Adriana Dousdebes, with whom his wife Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader, has two kids who attend the school (as confirmed via her Facebook page, which I won’t link to for privacy reasons.) The fishing tournament event appears on the St. John Neumann Catholic School Alumni Facebook page, for which Ms. Dousdebes is listed as the creator. In fact, based on the posts on that page, she appears to be a main organizer of the event… Funny that the Archdiocese wasn’t aware of the connection, but then, I’m sure they’ve got lots of other things on their plate. … The FB post reads in part:
Name: First Annual St. John Neumann School Fishing Tournament
Category: Sports & Recreation – Recreational SportsDescription:”Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “And I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
SJN Fishing Tournament is May 15, 2010 at Matheson Hammocks.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit SJN.
You do not need to be a SJN Alumni or student in order to participate.
Registration is open to EVERYONE!
Privacy Type:Open: All content is public.
SJN Fishing Tournament is proud to announce dates for our first tournament. Mark your calenders, May 15, 2010.
- Wed, May 12, 2010 at 7:00 pm @ Village Tavern – 8002 Southwest 81st Drive, Miami, FL.
- At least one registered angler per boat must be present at the meeting to receive the tournament bag and any further instructions and rules.
-Includes free beer & food.
-Includes raffle and silent auction.
FISHING TOURNAMENT:-Saturday, May 15, 2010
-Departure is flexible, may depart at anytime from any marina on Saturday, May 15th, 2010. If departure is not from Matheson, please radio in on VFH channel 72.
Fish weigh-in deadline is 3:00 PM at Matheson Park to be eligible for prize.
-Eligible fish include Dolphin,Tuna, Wahoo, Kingfish
-FISHING HOURS -Departure is flexible, may depart at anytime from any marina on Saturday, May 15th, 2010. If departure is not from Matheson, please radio in on VFH channel 72. Fish weigh-in deadline is 3:00 PM at Matheson Park to be eligible for prize.
-REGISTRATION -All entries must be received by 10 PM Thursday, May 13th, 2010 to be eligible for the tournament.
-Tournament fee – $300.00 PER BOAT (includes bag, 4 angler shirts, sunblock, magazine, after-party wristband and snack).
-Additional $20 for guests 18 and over (allows guest to eat and drink at weigh-in ceremony).
-Additional $10 fee for guest under 18 years.
ALL FEES ARE NON-REFUNDABLE
There will be a raffle and silent auction immediately following the tournament. You do not have to participate in the tournament to join the after event. There will be bands on sale for the after event. More info to follow. Thanks Again!!!!!!!
Please make all checks payable to St. John Neumann School and
St John Neumann School
Miami, FL 33176.
Attention: VXXXXX PXXXXX.
Memo line should read: Fishing Tournament entry fee.
**Credit cards will also be accepted. Please see below. …
The $1,500 (marked “registration fee” rather than “entry fee” or “sponsorship” in the Rubio filing) would in theory buy 5 entries to the fishing tournament. And I checked with a lawyer in D.C. who specializes in campaign finance issues, and who said that since the proceeds benefit the school, which is presumably a 501C4, such a donation would be perfectly legal. So it’s not clear why the campaign didn’t simply state the purpose of the (rescinded) payment to the school.
And while the Archdiocese spokesman said there was no flier, I did find this:
It’s also still not clear why the campaign didn’t enter the item as a charitable donation on their FEC form, or why if they wanted to make a charitable contribution, they didn’t simply purchase one of the actual sponsorships for sale. Those sponsorships were available in several denominations, although none in the amount that appeared on the Rubio FEC failing (which was $1,500):
As late as March 22nd his sister in law was still seeking sponsors for the tournament:
Even if the Rubio campaign purchased the entries for people who intended to actually enter the tournament (or if they bought them the way campaigns sometimes buy tables at a charitable dinner, and then give away the actual seats) there’s nothing illegal about that either. So there’s really no reason they (and the Archdiocese) are being so cryptic (or firing off a statement that “his kids don’t even go to the school,” as if there is zero family connection…)
Perhaps it’s because they understand that Rubio’s most persistent problem, as a reporter shared with me today, is his history of being sketchy with donated money, and his penchant for treating other people’s money as if it was his own, including using putting it into the hands of friends and family — as with his family member “couriers” who benefited from his leadership PACs (two of whom are earning money from the current campaign.) In this case, the campaign, per its own claims, allegedly dropped some donor-funded charity on a family member’s children’s school. Again, nothing legally wrong with that; just the kind of hookup you get with you’re on the Marco Rubio friends and family plan.
For now, this one’s cased closed, even with a few threads left untied.