Unfortunately, reality is that we will probably have a hit-piece on each of the candidates on this site just in time for the election to be over, partly because in contrast to most cycles this year presents an unusual number of young up and coming political actors who most likely will be around for a while. We already have pieces on Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee, and have recorded our less than satisfaction with Rand Paul (here, here, and here) but my focus here is on Marco Rubio, specifically as an interesting case study in Libertarian Power-Elite Analysis. Now Libertarian Power-Elite Analysis evokes two things in people’s minds; either tin-hat wearing conspiracy theories or Left-Marxist class struggle ideology, but both is unnecessary.
Libertarians have long held to Power Elite Analysis and applied it to centralized banking, war profiteering, and the process of regulatory expansion and takeover as forms of protectionism for those already within an industry. Rothbard noted “the normal and continuing condition of the State is oligarchic rule: rule by a coercive elite which has managed to gain control of the State machinery.” It is a universal rule of states everywhere and across time that “since predation must be supported out of the surplus of production, it is necessarily true that the class constituting the State—the full-time bureaucracy (and nobility)—must be a rather small minority in the land” while the productive portion of society remains larger. Power-Elite Analysis or Libertarian Class Theory, as it is sometimes called, is simply a way to analyze the development and motivations of political power and what influences certain policies.
My view on Marco Rubio essentially is that he is a false-flag attempt of GOP and neoconservative establishment to cut between the Tea-Party conservative base and establishment GOP players. Rubio’s presidential campaign is the result of several (but one particular) establishment elites who resent Jeb Bush and recognize the need to put someone forward who can appear to cut between the more right-wing grass roots side of the republican base but has credibility and establishment backing as well as near identical views, even as he appears as an outsider. Rubio has been perfectly positioned as somewhere between Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush.
Rubio’s political career is a tale of connections but largely it is the result of one man, Norman Braman. A member of the Forbes 400 (he was #281 before being ripped off by Bernie Madoff) Mr. Braman started out with one auto-dealership and is now estimated to be worth $1.94 billion. He now owns Bramans Motocars with several locations all across Florida (and the country) selling high-end brands like BMW, Audi, Rolls Royce, Porsche, and Cadillac. His auto-dealership raked $1.74 billion in sales in 2014 but in addition to cars Mr. Braman has an extensive art collection, used to be the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, and oversaw the merger of vitamin retailer Keystone Discount with Philadelphia Pharmaceuticals and has had a large involvement in the medical world for the past couple decades. Part of Braman’s affinity for Marco Rubio, aside from their mutual love of Israel, has been their similar up-from-nothing backgrounds. Braman started out as an analyst for a liquor company and his Polish father owned a barbershop in Philadelphia while his Romanian mother worked as a seamstress.
Braman’s history with Rubio is intriguing. Mr. Braman has heavily backed Marco Rubio’s campaigns, financed his legislative agenda, and multiple times has subsidized Mr. Rubio’s disastrously foolish personal finances. Mr. Braman is by far away the Rubio campaign’s biggest donor, according to The New York Times and Politico having an expected outlay somewhere between $10 and $25 million. Even as Rubio is not a leader in the poles Braman could function for him in a very similar manner that Sheldon Adelson’s financial backing allowed Newt Gingrich to continue so long in the 2012 campaign season.
Brahman has been a big player in Florida politics sponsoring the recall of Miami Mayor Carlos Alvarez, opposing city and state funding for the Miami Marlins stadium, and a lawsuit against David Beckham’s attempt at subsidized soccer stadiums in the Miami area even though Brahman happily conned Philadelphia into paying $65 million in repairs for the Eagles stadium while he was the owner. There has also been a long standing tradition of siphoning money from the state legislature (of which Rubio was a member) to his various “charities” and medical research institutions he has set up at universities across the state.
So why the support of Rubio? Well for starters the two have had a long standing relationship since Rubio’s school days. But in addition to Braman’s affinity for Rubio is his hostility towards Jeb Bush after he was repeatedly snubbed by Jeb while he was governor of Florida. Braman, as he had often done, had secured $2 million in state funds to be allocated to the Braman Breast Cancer Institute that he had established at the University of Miami. Braman says he was never given an explanation for the veto and friends have commented that “Norman Braman is going to be a thorn in Jeb’s side,” according to Politico.
Braman’s influence and patronage of Marco Rubio is no mere speculation as Marco Rubio has expressed as much himself both in the state senate and in his books. In an interview Rubio said that Mr. Braman has long been a father figure to himself advising him on what books to read, who to hire, and how to manage his staff. After the death of Rubio’s actual father Mr. Braman called him every other day to check in with him. The two met and bonded over their views of Israel at the beginning of Rubio’s career meeting and eating at Braman’s Indian Creek Island mansion. When Rubio won his senate campaign Braman paid for the two families to take a trip to Israel (the first time for Rubio) and visited again in 2014.
Mr. Braman in addition to helping Rubio get through school hired him as a lawyer while he was still a senate candidate, employed Rubio’s wife as an “advisor” to his charities and still employs her firm JDR Events, he helped Rubio get a job as a professor and subsidized his salary, and not to mention access to his private plane.
Braman and Rubio’s financial history is even more interesting considering Rubio’s personal money management blunders. Marco Rubio has made some truly terrible financial decisions that would even shock H.L. Mencken in their stupidity. In 2000 he entered the state legislature and reported a net worth of $0, $150,000 in student loans, and $30,000 is assorted credit and retail debt. Concerns about his financial management are what red flagged Rubio by the Romney campaign in 2012 while he was being vetted for vice president. Despite receiving $800,000 in 2012 (in addition to his senate income) in royalties for writing an autobiographical work he has been unable to get his finances in order. It could be that even as he announced plans to pay off his student loans in cash he simultaneously bought an $80,000 luxury speed boat. Just in May of this year he sustained another loss when he sold one of his houses in Tallahassee for $18,000 less than he bought it for after it had previously faced foreclosure when he missed mortgage payments five months in a row. Still in 2015 and only a few weeks prior to that Marco Rubio cashed his 401(k) of $68,000, which after the %10 penalty for early withdrawal, and after income taxes, amounted to only about $40,000. He did it because in his words “I’m running for president but also my refrigerator broke down. That was $3,000.And I had to replace the air conditioning unit in our home.” Regardless of the fact that if you are in such dire straits that you need to cash out an IRA you probably shouldn’t buy a $3,000 fridge, cashing out a 401(k) at age 44 is one of the stupidest ways to come up with some fast cash. In addition it is unclear why after grossing over $300,000 last year from his senate income, rent payments, royalties, and a university fellowship any of this would be necessary. Now this doesn’t mean Rubio has no retirement savings left, he also has senate pension, a federal thrift savings plan, and possibly other IRA’s.
These are not isolated blunders of an honest up-from-nothing American just trying to pay off his student loans like the rest of us, Rubio has made multiple remarkable gaffes that defy explanation. In addition to the speedboat there is the lease of a 2015 Audi Q7, a savings rate of 2%, and a long records of missed house payment, business license renewals, and others. He also “accidentally” used the party credit card to pay for a family reunion and “mistakenly” used the Republican Party of Florida credit card as a state legislature to put in stone pavers at his home. He said he just pulled out the wrong card, don’t you just hate when that happens. In 2005 Rubio’s was receiving income as a state legislature (about $90,000), had a job at law firm for $300,000 (where he was hired by Norman Braman), and had three houses; one in Tallahassee ($135,000), one in West Miami ($175,000) both of which he put no money down for, and third house in Miami ($550,000) on which almost immediately took out $135,000 in a home equity line for home improvements (the house is now worth $735,000). By 2008 Rubio had only paid off $45,000 dollars in principle on his student loans and still faced $115,000 outstanding on top of his three mortgages and racked up credit card debt.
It was during this period that Rubio set up several Political Action Committees (super PACs) one of which his wife was the treasurer of, one which employed several of Rubio nephews and other relatives, both of which he used to reimburse himself handsomely. Rubio and his PACs have been cited and fined repeatedly by the Federal Election Committee in one case finding $210,000 of donations that violated contribution rules. Before going to the Senate Braman helped to get a job as a teaching fellow at Florida International University, where he was paid $69,000. In 2011 Jeanette Rubio, Marco’s wife, and her consulting firm JDR events was hired by Norman Braman’s charity. In 2013 IRS records show Mrs. Rubio was paid $54,000 for her services, yet the charity’s IRS form shows it only donated $250 that same year. But they did report $150,000 in travel expenses and hold assets exceeding $9 million. This does not mean as the New York Times has pointed out that Rubio never returned the favor:
“The money has flowed both ways. Mr. Rubio has steered taxpayer funds to Mr. Braman’s favored causes, successfully pushing for an $80 million state grant to finance a genomics center at a private university and securing $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute for which Mr. Braman is a major donor.”
And it appears there would have been much more but for some key vetoes by Jeb while he was governor of Florida. Braman also occasionally called in for some favors when the daughter of the woman who does his nails (yes, he apparently has a nail person) has some immigration problems. Mr. Braman said Rubio was quick to respond.
His financial history seems to disclose what so many have come to conclude about Rubio, he’s a dunce with a knack for memorization and public appeal. He is wonderful at rehearsed lines, coached debuts, but very bad at spontaneity and independent decision making. Actually, he’s not even very good at the rehearsed stuff (and here is two straight minutes of Rubio trying to drink water). Rubio is career politician who went straight into the State legislature out of college, who as junior senator from Florida, is trying to compete against the other establish candidate (Jeb) from his own state, and seems to be hopelessly dependant on people like Braman who can hopefully attract other donors like Sheldon Adelson.
Part of Braman’s taking a liking to Marco Rubio was their similar upbringings as the sons of immigrants who made their way to the top. It might explain why Rubio has been so bad on immigration from a republican base perspective. Braman has been a long time supporter of immigration reform (including amnesty) and Rubio has jumped on the bandwagon as well. Brama had previously called on Rubio when someone working for him was having immigration problems. Through his connections Rubio was made apart of the so-called “Gang of Eight” who wrote the immigration bill in 2013 led by John McCain and Michael Shumer. Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker at the time showed how Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had meetings with Rupert Murdoch (C.E.O. of News Corp.), Roger Ailes (Fox News President), and a slew of Fox News host:
“including Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Neil Cavuto, who are now relatively sympathetic to the Gang’s proposed bill. Hannity voiced support for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which he previously dismissed as “amnesty,” on the day after the 2012 election. “God bless Fox,” [Lindsey] Graham said. “Last time, it was ‘amnesty’ every fifteen seconds.” He said that the change was important for his reëlection, because “eighty per cent of people in my primary get their news from Fox.” He added that the network has “allowed critics to come forward, but it’s been so much better.”
Rubio was later on Bill O’Reilly’s show where Bill exclaimed live on Fox that if anyone opposed the bipartisan bill Rubio should send them to him. In addition to the pivotal strings of connection with Rubio on immigration, Rubio cast the deciding vote for the Obamatrade Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which is the fast track for the Trans Pacific Partnership. Braman also rears his head in connection with Rubio’s terrible voting record on Obamacare. As was brought out in the debates Rubio has missed a lot of votes, but missing key votes on Obamacare are made even more strange by the connections:
“in the super PAC supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid. Miami-based automobile dealer Norman Braman gave $5 million; Besilu Stables LLC, owned by Miami health care executive Benjamin Leon, gave $2.5 million. In total, the group Conservative Solutions pulled in about $16 million, including a $3 million gift from Oracle founder Larry Ellison.”
Braman himself also has lots of dealing in the healthcare industry being integral to a large pharmaceutical merger early on in his career and heading several cancer research and charity institutions.
So why does Braman, and now a whole host of donor networks following him, support Rubio? Rubio is a crony-tool not just of the elite, as an elusive concept or group but of the world of neocon think tanks. Braman seems to have chosen him mainly because of their mutual love of Israel, both having taken multiple trips to Israel, one of which Braman paid for both families to go on just days after Rubio was elected. When I say that Norman Braman has a “love” for Israel, I mean he is positively Israel-centric. Like Adelson, his one real issue is supporting Israel no if, ands, or buts. You can certainly look for Rubio zealously referring to “Israel our greatest ally,” several times in any given debate. Beyond the New York Times noting Braman as a civic-leader in Miami he has been a Jewish-leader. He served as the president of the Greater-Miami Jewish Federation. In an interview he related just about every issue back to Israel. When asked about U.S. struggling economy he responded:
“I worry about that because I really believe that a strong America is the greatest factor which insures a great Israel and a sustaining Israel. A weak America poses a threat to the future of Israel. So I concern myself about the United States, our economy, and the general situation in this country.”
He also remarked that he believe the UN’s “one basic purpose” is to “discredit Israel” and that their criticisms are nothing but anti-Semitism in “disguise.” He later said in the interview he believes anti-antisemitism, which he believes is synonymous with anti-Israel, is endemic today.
It seems to be a play right out of the Nixon playbook from what he used to tell his aide Lyn Nofziger “Never hire anyone over thirty…. Get young guys who do as they are told.” Rubio has long been groomed by neo-conservative establishment and had his eye on the 2016 election. Even the Nation Review has noticed and proclaimed “The Necons Return,” although I’m not exactly sure that they left. They have however apparently chosen Rubio as their candidate. Among Rubio’s advisors are Bush-era national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, former deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, Brookings Institution scholar Robert Kagan, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. Even further evidence is that Rubio has adopted the motto for his campaign “A New American Century.” Of course this seems no doubt based off of Project for the New American Century (PNAC) a neoconservative think-tank started by Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, John Bolton, and Dick Cheney that advocated more aggressive foreign policy and global American leadership. In 2002 the organization launched an all out campaign for the Iraq war and wrote a letter to president Bush which stated that we should invade Iraq because Israel’s war is our war:
“Israel’s fight against terrorism is our fight.… For reasons both moral and strategic, we need to stand with Israel in its fight against terrorism…If we do not move against Saddam Hussein and his regime, the damage our Israeli friends and we have suffered until now may someday appear but a prelude to much greater horrors.”
One of the issues at the beginning of the think-tank’s founding was that Kristol felt that the Republican Party lacked a clear vision for American foreign policy, language Rubio has almost explicitly adopted:
“I disagree with voices in my own party who argue we should not engage at all, who warn we should heed the words of John Quincy Adams not to go ‘abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.’…In every region of the world, we should always search for ways to use U.S. aid and humanitarian assistance to strengthen our influence, the effectiveness of our leadership, and the service of our interests and ideals.” (from a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations)
If you look at many of his speeches you have to wonder Bill Krystal or Robert Kagan wrote it themselves. There is the disdain for American tradition and old-right conservatism’s foreign policy, a hunger for perpetual revolution, and an conception that American principles are universal, abstract, and ought to be implemented around the world by force. Look for these staples of neoconservative thought in Rubio’s debate and speeches to come. Also look for Rubio to make references with the phrase “The world America made,” it’s a reference he uses often to speak of American post-WWII interventions but is a passing nod to Robert Kagan’s book by the same name. Make no mistake Marco Rubio is part of the next wave of redefining conservatism as neoconservatism.
In addition to the aforementioned names there is also several ex-Bush era foreign policy now advising the young junior senator including: Jamie Fly, Elliot Abrams, and Eric Edelmen (ambassador under Pres. Bush to Turkey & Finland, and Cheney protégé). Eric Edelmen, less well known than Kagan or Krystal, was a major player in the Iran-contra affair where arms were sold to Iran and the money was used to fund anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua. Edelman made a comeback in public eye serving as the National Security Adviser for President Bush for 8 years. Currently he is a senior fellow at hyper pro-Israeli Council for Foreign Relations, which seems to also be rather smitten with Rubio. Rubio has been turning to Edelman for at least since 2010 and Jamie Fly has on Rubio’s senate staff since 2013.
Rubio has as much chance as Jeb does of being the establishment candidate and is also already splitting the big money donors like hedge funder Paul Singer away from Jeb. At least partly because of Jeb’s relationship with Jim Baker who heavily criticized expansion of Israeli settlements as an empident to peace (see here). Rubio has appeal in that he has all establishment beliefs but for one reason or another has large appeal to most Tea-Party conservatives. His heritage as the son of Cuban immigrants is another point of advantage for an increasingly large voter block that Republicans have struggled to woo.
Rubio seems to have the perfectly broad appeal to make both Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush null and void, but he will have to find a way get everyone’s attention past Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Perhaps his strategy to stay low while Carson and Trump burn out as other candidates like Herman Cain did. He seems to have already been charged by aides to make Rand irrelevant with erroneous and old tattered accusations of “isolationism.” Rubio is an establishment shill, his foreign policy is Neoconservative to the core, and his domestic policy involves long support for subsidies and cronyism. So lookout for Rubio to stick around, receive a lot of praise from the media on his debate performances (whether FOX, CNN, or even NPR) disproportionate to his poll numbers, and possibly become the new establishment candidate if the Jeb campaign continues to flounder.
 Murray Rothbard, For A New Liberty, 60.
 Murray Rothbard, Anatomy of the State, 19.
See also: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/marco-rubio-2016-campaign-norman-braman-117134