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Fla. Sen. candidate: No fear of credit card probe

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio said Wednesday he has nothing to hide about his use of a credit card issued through the state GOP and that all of the party spending should be made public.

Gov. Charlie Crist, his rival in the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, asked federal prosecutors two weeks ago to investigate credit cards used by more than two dozen party and elected officials. That also includes Crist's hand-picked party chairman, Jim Greer, who resigned in February after months of complaints about lavish spending.

"Getting this information out in the open will be the best way to deal with it. As far as my spending is concerned, it was for legitimate political purposes. When I made personal charges, I paid for them directly to American Express," Rubio said in a statement released by his campaign.

The scrutiny comes at a crucial time in this year's race for the U.S. Senate, with polls showing Rubio with a substantial lead in a primary against Crist.

Crist said earlier this week that he's considering abandoning the GOP primary race to run as an independent. He has until April 30 to decide whether he'll seek the Senate seat as an independent, months before the GOP primary in August. A recent poll showed Rubio with a substantial lead over Crist in a GOP primary; in the scenario of a three-way race, the poll by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut showed Crist with a narrow lead against Rubio and the likely Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.

The Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times, citing unnamed sources, reported that investigators are looking into credit card use for a number of GOP leaders in Florida to determine if they were used for personal expenses. Rubio had a party-issued credit card for about four years, while he was an elected official.

"I have not been contacted and don't know anything about any potential inquiries, but I welcome the chance to set the record straight once and for all," Rubio said.

A person close to the state Republican Party told The Associated Press that he was contacted by the FBI, IRS and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and was asked about the use of credit cards by Greer and three other party officials. The person, who asked not to be named because he didn't want to jeopardize an ongoing investigation, said investigators didn't ask about Rubio.

Crist commented briefly on the investigation, saying: "I have great confidence in the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office and I'm sure justice will be done."

Crist hasn't had a GOP credit card, but has been at dinners and events where others picked up his expenses.

Federal investigators wouldn't confirm the investigation.

The Republican Party of Florida's executive board plans to hold a closed door meeting Friday to discuss party spending issues, as well as a lawsuit filed by Greer claiming the party failed to pay up on a secret severance agreement.

Eds: UPDATES with source confirming investigation, details of GOP meeting Friday; CORRECTS that Meek is the likely nominee, sted nominee.

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