Senator Marco Rubio seems and feels young to be running for president, especially since another, more senior member of his party hailing from Florida politics, former governor Jeb Bush, appears all destined to make a run himself. But Rubio is off to the races, regardless of the likely presence of another Floridian.
Like many politicians of both parties, Rubio’s enthusiastic supporters include some with philanthropic ties. One of his most enthusiastic and moneyed backers is billionaire car dealer Norman Braman. Sports fans know Braman as a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL, with fan memories including his “I own you” statement to holdout player Keith Jackson, his contention that he didn’t make any money off the Eagles when statistics showed it to be the NFL’s most profitable franchise, and as a Floridian taxpayer his opposition to public subsidies for the Miami Dolphins stadium—and yes, fans, he was the Eagles owner when the team parted with Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White.
Forbes ranks the octogenarian Braman as the 351st-wealthiest person in the U.S., with a net worth of some $1.89 billion and fame for owning the largest private collection of Alexander Calder artworks apparently anywhere. With that kind of money in his coffers, Braman is also a philanthropist. The striking thing about his family foundation—the Braman Family 2011 Charitable Foundation—is that on the Foundation Directory’s profile of the foundation, the listed contact person is Jeanette Rubio, with an email address of “jdrubioconsulting.” The Washington Post reports that not only is Braman a financial backer of Senator Rubio’s presidential aspirations, but the Braman foundation has hired Rubio’s wife as a part-time employee to “help…the family determine how to donate millions of dollars to nonprofits and charities.” Rubio’s Senate financial disclosure statements identify him as the president of Rubio Consulting and the principal in Marco Rubio, P.A., where one of his clients was Braman Management.
If the Braman family is distributing many millions, it isn’t necessarily through the family foundation (or through the Irma and Norman Braman Art Foundation, which appears to be an operating foundation). The grants payouts of the foundation, according to the Form 990PFs, look as follows:
Family Foundation End of Year Assets (book value)
Family Foundation Grants Payout
Largest Grant Recipients Listed on 990s
Additional Noteworthy Grants
Breast Cancer Research Foundation ($250)
American Friends of Jordan River Village ($180,000); MDC Foundation ($105,000); Jewish Community Services of South Florida ($50,000); Camillus House ($50,000)
The Jordan River Village is one of a network of free sleep-away camps for seriously ill children, founded a quarter-century ago by actor Paul Newman.
Greater Miami Jewish Federation ($550,000); Temple Beth Shalom in Miami Beach ($250,000); the Cleveland Orchestra ($100,000); University of Miami ($67,857); American Friends of Israel Museum ($50,000)
Small grants for organizations serving persons with disabilities (American Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro, Best Buddies) and for troubled youth or youth with health needs (City Year, Kristi House, etc.).
Reports had Braman likely to commit as much as $10 million to pro-Rubio PACs in the event of the senator’s official candidacy.
The importance of Braman should not be underestimated. In the likelihood of several Republican gladiators for the presidential nomination, including Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and others, Braman’s dollars could keep an otherwise outpolled Rubio in the race, much like Sheldon Adelson did for Newt Gingrich and Foster Friess did for Rick Santorum last time around. Like Adelson and Friess, Braman plays two positions—campaign financier and philanthropic donor. He won’t be the only one in the 2016 presidential primary scrum.—Rick Cohen
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