Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida named his longtime friend and financial adviser Bernie Navarro to an advisory board that helped screen potential candidates for federal judgeships, even though Navarro had no college degree. law or legal experience. Just three months earlier, Navarro — who runs a private mortgage lender — gave Rubio a short-term $850,000 “bridge loan” that enabled the Republican senator to buy a house.

To be clear, there is nothing inherently unethical or suspicious about taking out a bridging loan. As their name suggests, they are often used in business or real estate transactions to bridge the gap between more conventional and permanent forms of financing. Homeowners can use bridge loans, for example, to finalize the purchase of a new home while waiting for their current home to sell, as was apparently the case with Rubio.

But this case seems remarkable for a number of reasons, starting with the long and close personal and financial relationship between Rubio and Navarro. Also, Rubio received his loan of Benworth Capital, Navarro’s company, on January 18, 2021, but did not publicly disclose it for over a year and a half, until its final financial disclosure form on August 30, 2022. In April 2021, after having received the loan from Benworth but well before disclosing it, Rubio named Navarro to the Southern District Judicial Advisory Commission, which was responsible for selecting the finalists for several prominent federal appointments in South Florida, including U.S. District Judges, U.S. Marshals, and U.S. Attorney.

Rubio got his $850,000 loan in January 2021, but didn’t disclose it for over a year and a half. During that time, he named the lender to a commission that recommended federal judges.

Adam Bozzi, vice president of communications at advocacy group End Citizens United, said he clearly saw a “threat of conflict of interest” in Rubio’s relationship with Navarro. “It gets worse when you’re actually indebted to the person and put them on a board that gives them special access. [to give] advice,” he added, “and it gets even worse when you don’t disclose it. »

Navarro has extensive professional experience in real estate finance, investment, development and construction, but has no obvious qualifications to advise on judicial appointments. According to Benworth Capital websitethe company offers bridge loans with “a less stringent approval process” for home buyers with “less than perfect credit.”

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These transactions have generated some controversy over the years. In 2017, Benworth foreclosed on the family home of a 14-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. His parents had stopped making monthly payments, saying they had been ‘misled into taking out a short-term, high-interest loan…which they could not afford to repay’ . Miami Herald reported. Ultimately, the family was allowed to stay in their home, after Benworth agreed to a $240,000 settlement, nearly $100,000 more than the original loan amount.

In 2020, Navarre registered Benworth as a “woman-owned business,” in an effort to expedite the receipt of COVID emergency relief funds under the Paycheck Protection Program. Salon has been unable to determine whether one or more women own at least 51% of the company, which is the definition of this term.

Navarro’s two companies, Benworth Capital and Presto Payday, received at least $308,000 in COVID relief while his firm processed PPP loans. Benworth continued to grow, open an office in Puerto Ricoand donate over $56,000 Republican and PAC candidates, as well as $14,200 to the National Republican Senate Committee.

Rubio and Navarro reportedly met in Florida Republican circles and became friends long before the former entered politics. In April 2015, Navarro organized a intimate meeting for Rubio and a group of friends, family and political allies at Navarro’s Miami suburban home, eclipsing the senator’s announcement by present it as “the next President of the United States”.

Navarra organized several fundraisers for Rubio, first for his short presidential campaign, then for his re-election to the Senate in 2016, serving as finance chairman for both campaigns. Navarro personally contributed more $25,500 at Rubio campaigns and associated CAP throughout his career.

There is nothing patently illegal about Rubio’s personal or financial relationship with Navarro, although it points to a number of unanswered questions. But as Adam Bozzi of End Citizens United sees it, it’s a classic example of how dark dealings involving money and influence have contaminated American politics.

“Giving these types of people influence where they can advocate for judges who will help businesses or help themselves rather than Florida consumers or families,” Bozzi told Salon, “is the kind of quid pro quo corruption that hurts people and discourages voters. “

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