Since dropping out of the 2016 presidential race, Florida Senator Marco Rubio has made three things clear: He needs to earn money; he doesn’t want to do it working on Wall Street; and he wants to run for president, possibly as early as the 2020 race.
Rubio’s comments, made to friends and former supporters, also underscore some of the difficult choices he has to make as he prepares to become a private citizen with an eye toward resuming politics as a presidential candidate. Rubio leaves office in January and has said he will be having detailed discussions about his future career next August.
Even so, since dropping out of the GOP nomination contest and announcing he wasn’t running for re-election as senator, Rubio has been deluged with possible job offers from the private sector. Rubio has indicated to these people that the money problems that became a campaign issue this year are for real, and that his first priority is to earn a living that allows him to take care of his family and pay off personal debt before running for president again.
But Rubio, 44, has also acknowledged that he’s in somewhat of a bind; Some of his biggest supporters are financial executives including Paul Singer, the billionaire who runs Elliot Management, a prominent hedge fund, and Wayne Berman, the head of government affairs at private equity powerhouse, The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX).
But Rubio has said in these discussions that from a political standpoint he will find it difficult to take any job that is related to Wall Street given the negative stigma now attached to the banking business following the 2008 financial collapse.
Rubio’s dilemma represents a significant shift among elected officials who had for years considered Wall Street as safe, prestigious and most of all a lucrative place for employment after leaving public office—and before jumping back into politics. That all changed after the 2008 financial crisis and after revelations that Wall Street banks had lobbied public officials to weaken regulations that earned them to make huge profits by taking excessive risk, which ultimately led to their demise.
Since then both Republican and Democratic base voters have looked warily on any politicians with ties to the banking business—a stigma that political analysts say won’t change for years to come given the long-lasting economic malaise that followed the 2008 banking debacle.
“Marco wants to make some money but he doesn’t want to make it on Wall Street,” said one GOP operative with close ties to Rubio. “He saw what happened to others with Wall Street connections this year and he doesn’t want that albatross.”
A Rubio spokesman told FOX Business: "Senator Rubio's primary focus is his work on behalf of the people of Florida in the United States Senate. Next January, he will be a private citizen, and he has not been involved in any discussions about any future political races."
Before running for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush earned millions of dollars working for the Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers and Barclays Bank. Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton didn’t work directly for a bank, but she earned millions of dollars in speaking fees from the likes of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) after leaving the Obama Administration as secretary of state.
Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich has attempted to tout his work as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers as proof of his private sector experience as he continues to run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Yet the Wall Street ties of all three have been problematic; Before dropping out of the GOP race, Bush was attacked by frontrunner Donald Trump, a reality TV star and real estate developer, for his connections to banks.
Clinton is still considered the frontrunner to win the Democratic presidential nomination, but her opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been able to galvanize the Democratic Party’s base, and generate both votes and primary victories, by attacking her ties to the banking business.
Even Kasich—who worked as an investment banker in a small Columbus, Ohio, office of Lehman—hasn’t been immune from criticism over his Wall Street ties.
So where does that leave Rubio? Supporters say his options are somewhat limited if he’s really worried about a political future. Rubio earned a law degree from the University of Miami and for a time was in private practice, but most of his career has been in politics.
Thus, if he worked for a major law firm, he would be paid not for his legal expertise but for his political connection—a line of work that carries as many conflicts of interest as does banking, analysts say.
Rubio, these people say, could go on a speaking tour, given his fascinating life story as the son of Cuban immigrants who settled in Miami after escaping the oppression of the Castro regime. But again, the entities that pay the biggest fees are those with the biggest possible conflicts, such as law firms, hedge funds and banks.
One person who spoke to Rubio said the Florida senator (and well-known Miami Dolphins football fan) recently joked about his lack of options. “He said I want to be president of the U.S. and the Dolphins but both of those jobs are taken,” this person said.