November 04, 2016

Patrick Murphy won't return donations D.C. newspaper says are tied to FBI probe

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@ByKristenMClark

Capitalizing on a controversy affecting Democrat Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign less than a week from Election Day, Florida Republican Party leaders want Murphy to return what they call "tainted donations" that a Capitol Hill newspaper reported are the subject of an FBI investigation.

But Murphy's campaign told the Herald/Times on Friday that the Jupiter congressman has no plans to.

The Hill reported this week that federal investigators are looking into allegations that Murphy donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid -- the son of a Saudi billionaire whom Murphy first met in high school -- orchestrated a "straw donor" scheme to boost Murphy's first run for Congress in 2012. The accusations originated from the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC that filed a formal complaint in June and is spending $15 million on ad time this fall to attack Murphy and support Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Hill noted that Murphy himself is not under investigation, and Murphy's campaign has said repeatedly this week -- in the original story and subsequent media interviews about it -- that neither Murphy nor anyone from his campaign has been contacted by the FBI.

Seeking to link Murphy's (unrelated) controversy with that of the FBI's probe into Hillary Clinton's emails, Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement Thursday: "Floridians are tired of the Democrats and their concurrent FBI investigations. ...  It’s time for [Murphy] to return all of the donations tied to the alleged straw donor scheme and finally end his track record of shady campaign contributions."

Murphy's campaign says it's not going to return the money -- citing the political motivations of both RPOF's request and the Senate Leadership Fund's complaint.

The campaign also noted -- in explaining its decision to the Herald/Times -- that The Hill's report is based on unnamed sources and not, what the campaign would deem, information that proves definitively an FBI investigation is ongoing or that the donor scheme even happened. Murphy's campaign added that it doesn't dispute the facts in The Hill's story, although the congressman downplayed it Wednesday, telling reporters: "There's nothing in there."

"There is no investigation into Patrick Murphy, as The Hill reported. We haven't been contacted by any authority about this issue," Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp reiterated in a statement Friday.

Murphy -- as recently as this week -- has agreed to donate other past contributions associated with controversy, though.

For instance, on Monday, Murphy's campaign said he would donate to the U.S. Treasury nearly $22,000 in contributions Murphy received from a Boston Law firm that was exposed by The Boston Globe over the weekend for allegedly engaging in a different type of donation scheme.

Last spring, Murphy also said he'd given away $16,000 in direct contributions from Al-Rashid after the Senate Leadership Fund publicized the fact that Al-Rashid had pleaded guilty in 2014 to an assault charge against his wife.

Murphy's campaign said those two examples are different because, in the latter situation, it involved proven criminal charges or, in The Globe's case, "a thorough investigation by a widely respected newspaper."

Photo credit: AP

Outside money floods Rubio-Murphy race thanks to high court's Citizens United ruling

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Individuals, corporations, advocacy groups and super-PACs from outside Florida are pumping money into the close Senate contest between incumbent Marco Rubio and challenger Patrick Murphy.

More than $48 million in independent expenditures, most of it from outside the Sunshine State, has been spent on the Rubio-Murphy race in which the Miami Republican has held about a 3 point lead in recent days, according to the polling average on realclearpolitics.com.

Only five other U.S. Senate campaigns -- in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio -- have received more money from outside their campaigns.

Every state except Nevada features incumbent GOP senators who, like Rubio, are trying to fend off Democratic challengers. Nevada's race is for an open Senate seat vacated by the retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Those six races will likely decide whether the Republican Party retains the Senate majority it gained in the November 2014 elections.

In addition to money contributed by outside groups, Rubio's campaign had raised $12.48 million through Oct. 19 while Murphy's campaign had raised $13.72 million, for a total of $26.2 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

That figure combined with the independent expenditures puts an overall price tag of almost $75 million on the Rubio-Murphy Senate race.

In Florida's Senate race, outside groups have made 14 TV, media and digital ad buys totaling at least $1 million, all but one of them targeting Murphy.

The biggest buy was made by the Senate Leadership Fund on Oct. 27 for $3.16 million.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a spinoff of the American Crossroads super PAC started by former President George W. Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, has spent $81.7 million in the current election cycle.

Among all super PACs in the country, only the liberal Priorities USA Action and the conservative Right to Rise USA have spent more.

Other groups based outside Florida that have spent big against Murphy are the American Future Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Republican Senate Committee and the National Rifle Association.

The only Florida-centric organization with significant expenditures opposing Murphy is the Florida First Project, a super PAC created in June on the day Rubio did an about-switch and announced he was running for Senate re-election after having declined during his earlier presidential bid.

So-called "super" political action committees are free to collect unlimited amounts of money as long as the donors' identities and the amounts of their contributions.

The flood of independent expenditures by super PACs has followed a landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling, in a case brought by the conservative watchdog group Citizens United, that described such spending as expressions of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

However, direct contributions to political campaigns remain limited by campaign-finance law.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 03, 2016

Republicans allege Patrick Murphy's stock sale for campaign loan is illegal 'sham'

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@ByKristenMClark

Republicans are accusing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy of violating congressional ethics rules and federal campaign finance laws by recently selling stock in his family's company to cover a last-minute campaign loan.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust -- a conservative watchdog group -- filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, and Seminole County Republican activist Kimberly Carroll also filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee publicized Carroll's complaint Thursday, as FACT provided the Herald/Times with a copy of its. Both complaints are dated Wednesday.

MORE: Read the two complaints here and here.

Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp dismissed the complaints as "desperate," politically motivated attacks. He called Carroll's complaint, in particular, not "worth the cost of a stamp, and it's an abuse of taxpayer dollars to ask taxpayer-paid employees to read it and throw it in the trash."

"Not only does this complaint get its facts wrong, it is filed by a long time supporter of Marco Rubio who has donated to him," Karp said in reference to the Republican incumbent. Karp did not respond to a request for which facts were incorrect in Carroll's complaint.

FEC filings show Carroll previously gave $255 to Rubio's former presidential campaign, for which she listed herself as "campaign manager" in contribution records. 

Murphy's campaign has similarly dismissed as "frivolous and unfounded" previous complaints from FACT over Murphy's family connections and his campaign finances.

FACT and Carroll now claim, though, that Murphy executed what Carroll described as "a sham 'sale' " by claiming to have sold $1 million in stock in his family's Coastal Construction Group to use as collateral for the recent campaign loan. Murphy was gifted his stock in Coastal a few years ago by his father -- Coastal founder, CEO and chairman Tom Murphy Jr.

"This massive sale of stocks given to him by his father warrants investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics ... as it appears to constitute a prohibited contribution in the name of another in violation of both federal campaign finance laws and House Ethics rules," Carroll writes in her complaint.

Continue reading "Republicans allege Patrick Murphy's stock sale for campaign loan is illegal 'sham'" »

For Patrick Murphy and friend Ibrahim Al-Rashid, political giving went together

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via @learyreports

Years before Ibrahim Al-Rashid began causing problems for his friend Patrick Murphy, they were in synch down to their political giving.

Beginning with matching $2,300 contributions to Mitt Romney on the same day in 2007, Murphy and Al-Rashid, who met years earlier at prep school, made a series of corresponding donations to politicians just as Murphy was trying to become one.

On March 18, 2010, for example, Al-Rashid and Murphy maxed out to Charlie Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign, giving two donations each of $2,400, maxing out. Family members of Al-Rashid’s did the same.

Other Murphy-Al-Rashid donations came within a few days of each other.

The contributions help fill out the picture of Murphy’s connections and access to political money that has propelled his career. An unknown in politics, the early donations likely helped gain him access to key figures, from Crist to Bill Nelson.

Al-Rashid was back in the news on Wednesday when The Hill reported that the FBI is looking at an alleged illegal straw donor scheme. Murphy sought to discredit the report Wednesday. “I haven’t been contacted, nor has my team,” the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate said.

“Please point out one sentence in my story that Patrick Murphy disputes. Just one,” shot back the reporter.

Not in dispute: Murphy’s ties to Al-Rashid, son of a Saudi billionaire. As the Palm Beach Post noted Wednesday, Al-Rashid has given nearly $400,000 to Murphy’s campaigns over the years and to outside groups supporting him.

Murphy met Al-Rashid while attending the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. They both attended University of Miami.

Continue reading "For Patrick Murphy and friend Ibrahim Al-Rashid, political giving went together" »

November 02, 2016

Report: FBI investigating Murphy donor accused of coordinating donor scheme

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From @jonathanvswan at The Hill:

The FBI is investigating an alleged illegal donation scheme involving a wealthy Saudi family that supports Democratic Florida Senate candidate Patrick Murphy.

The Hill has found no evidence that Murphy himself was involved in, or even aware of, the alleged scheme. The Murphy campaign declined to say whether the candidate is aware of the FBI probe, but the campaign said neither Murphy nor his campaign staff is being investigated.

The Murphy campaign noted that a conservative super PAC earlier this year filed a complaint on the issue that the FBI is looking into.

“This complaint was written by a Republican super PAC willing to say anything to elect Marco Rubio,” said Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp. “Neither Patrick nor any current or past employees have ever been contacted regarding this matter, and we are confident an examination of the facts will result in its dismissal.”

...

The allegation — originally submitted by a Republican super PAC run by a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — is that Murphy’s high school friend and major political donor, Ibrahim Al-Rashid, coordinated a “straw donor” scheme to boost Murphy.

Read The Hill's full story here.

Here is more details on that super PAC complaint. The Senate Leadership Fund -- which has aggressively targeted Murphy this cycle -- filed it in June. The Hill reported in September that the Federal Election Commission was looking into it.

Over the summer -- after the super PAC's complaint was filed -- Murphy's campaign, at one point, averaged $1,288 in legal expenses day over a six-week period.

Photo credit: AP

October 28, 2016

Patrick Murphy, who 'hates' super PACs, raises money off 'major boost' he's getting from one

@ByKristenMClark

Democrat Patrick Murphy has made campaign finance reform one of his key issues in his bid for U.S. Senate, notably saying this year he "hates" super PACs.

Yet, on Friday morning, Murphy's campaign sent out a fundraising email heralding it as "great news" that the Jupiter congressman was getting a "major boost" from one of those very same political funding sources he wants to dismantle if elected to the Senate.

The email references outside help Murphy's campaign is getting in the home-stretch from the Senate Majority PAC. The national Democratic super PAC announced Thursday it'd be giving at least $1 million to another super PAC dedicated to boosting Murphy's prospects against Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio.

"This is fantastic for our race," Murphy's fundraising email said.

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Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money but can't coordinate with candidates' campaigns.

Murphy has said repeatedly that he wants to reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that paved the way for super PACs as well as dark-money groups, which don't have to disclose their donors.

Both Murphy and Rubio have benefited greatly from those funding sources during their past and present campaigns.

But of the two, only Murphy champions getting rid of super PACs even as he embraces the benefits of them -- a position that has sparked accusations of hypocrisy from Murphy's critics. (Rubio supports Citizens United.)

For example, despite abhorring special interest money in politics, Murphy has voiced gratitude for his wealthy father pouring nearly $3 million so far this cycle into super PACs -- including the Senate Majority PAC -- that have supported Murphy's Senate campaign.

When asked why Murphy was touting the "major boost" he's getting from the type of political group he wants to get rid of, Murphy's campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in an email to the Herald/Times: "Like every other Senate candidate, Patrick has to play by the rules as they are, not as he wants them to be. To do otherwise would be absurd."

"Patrick has a message of showing up and working hard for Florida and he is appreciative of support that helps get that message out," Slayen said.

October 27, 2016

Murphy loans $1M to his Senate campaign for last-minute ad time

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@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy personally loaned $1 million to his U.S. Senate campaign in October to pay for extra TV ad time in the final two weeks before Election Day, his campaign says.

The move comes after Murphy had lackluster fundraising in the third quarter and after national Democratic groups withdrew millions of dollars from Florida this fall, leaving Murphy to largely fend for himself.

"These additional resources will help position our campaign to win with expanded TV buys across Florida. We are confident in our path to victory," campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement Thursday.

MORE: Bitter Senate debate reflects tightening race between Rubio, Murphy

The loan is being disclosed this week as part of the campaign's pre-general election campaign finance report, which is due to the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. A copy of that report -- which would detail how and when the loan was reported to the FEC -- was not immediately available Thursday morning from Murphy's campaign.

The campaign plans to use the influx of cash from Murphy's loan to continue running a Spanish-language ad featuring President Barack Obama in Miami. That's Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's backyard and where Murphy is working to court the county's high Hispanic population, which leans Republican.

Murphy's loan will also help pay for ad time in Gainesville, Tallahassee and Jacksonville -- areas of the state Murphy hasn't had much of a visible presence in but where his campaign hopes to close the gap with independents. In those markets, Murphy's campaign plans to air an ad he debuted earlier this month that knocks Rubio for his poor Senate attendance record.

Murphy is making use of his personal wealth to front the loan with no outside help.

In his annual financial disclosure for 2015 -- filed this spring -- Murphy reported a net worth of between $72,000 and almost $4.8 million. Much of that wealth comes from stock in his family's Coastal Construction Group, shares valued at between $1 million and $5 million. (The gift from his father, Coastal chairman and CEO Tom Murphy, tripled Patrick Murphy's net worth when he received it in 2012 before he first took office in Congress.)

Coincidentally, Rubio brought up Murphy's wealth in Wednesday night's final U.S. Senate debate during a discussion about the economy. (Murphy -- for whom strengthening the middle class is a major campaign platform -- supports raising the minimum wage; Rubio doesn't.)

In his rebuttal, Rubio mocked Murphy by saying: "I find it ironic that I'm being lectured by the plight of the working class by a millionaire who inherited his money" while Rubio noted he "is the son of working class immigrants who inherited no money." 

Photo credit: AP

August 23, 2016

Patrick Murphy averaged $1,300 a day on legal fees in less than 6 weeks

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@ByKristenMClark

Democrat Patrick Murphy is fast racking up legal expenses for his U.S. Senate campaign -- averaging $1,288 a day over less than six weeks this summer.

Murphy's campaign describes it as run-of-the-mill campaign costs, but the Jupiter congressman's pre-primary disclosure to the Federal Election Commission this month shows his political legal expenses mounting at an atypical pace.

Murphy reported spending $52,800 on legal services between July 1 and Aug. 10 -- almost double the $27,200 he spent on legal fees for the entire second quarter (the three months between April and June) and roughly half of what he's spent on legal fees in the past 13 months altogether.

Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp declined to say what exactly Murphy's legal fees were going toward.

"It's normal for campaigns to pay lawyers to make sure we're always following the law, and the larger the campaign, the more moving pieces there are," Karp said in a statement to the Herald/Times.

But by comparison, a handful of other top Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in similarly competitive races this year haven't spent nearly as much as Murphy on legal fees as their campaigns also ramped up and as they employed the same law firm. In fact, Murphy spent more in less than six weeks than four such candidates did in the preceding three months combined.

Between April and June, Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Ted Strickland of Ohio together spent just $35,400 on legal costs. Each used Seattle-based Perkins Coie for their legal work, an elite firm often used by Democratic candidates, including Murphy.

Not all had such low expenses; Tammy Duckworth of Illinois came close to matching Murphy's legal spending in the second quarter with $24,600 in fees to Perkins Coie. (None of these five have pre-primary reports due this month, because their state primaries are held at a different time than Florida's.)

The Senate Leadership Fund, a major conservative super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, highlighted Murphy's pre-primary legal costs on Monday, implying the irregularly high legal fees during that six-week period are related to FEC complaints filed against Murphy this summer.

In June, the Senate Leadership Fund alleged Murphy was involved with a "straw donor scheme" because of similar donations that went to both him and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, himself a U.S. Senate candidate six years ago.

When asked if Murphy's legal expenses were related to defending against such FEC complaints, Karp deflected by attacking the Senate Leadership Fund and Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy averaged $1,300 a day on legal fees in less than 6 weeks" »

August 18, 2016

Rubio says he's raised more than $3M since July 1

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@ByKristenMClark

Incumbent Republican Marco Rubio's campaign announced today that the U.S. senator has brought in almost $5.5 million since he launched his re-election bid in late June.

That includes about $3.25 million that was raised since July 1 alone, the campaign said.

The campaign reported having $4.6 million in the bank, as of Aug. 10.

Rubio's camp noted that all donations came as a result of "direct contributions," as opposed to money raised through joint fundraising committees.

Today is the deadline for U.S. Senate campaigns in Florida to file their pre-primary campaign finance reports, covering July 1 through Aug. 10. Between Aug. 11 and Aug. 27, campaigns are require to report any contributions in excess of $1,000 within 48 hours.

The primary is Aug. 30, and mail-in and in-person early voting are already underway.

Rubio is the first of the U.S. Senate candidates to release their pre-primary figures.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald

August 06, 2016

DNC emails reveal controversial reputation of South Florida billionaire

@jamesmartinrose

While prominent Democrats from Hillary Clinton on down regularly mock Donald Trump in public, he's not the only wealthy commercial real estate developer to be ridiculed by party operatives.

Stephen Bittel, a Miami Beach businessman who owns and operates more than $1 billion in real estate in South Florida and beyond, isn't the most popular fellow at the Democratic National Committee despite his large donations to the party.

A few of the DNC emails released last month by Wikileaks, which prompted the resignation of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chairwoman, contain trash-talking about Bittel among folks at top levels of its massive fundraising operation.

Bittel, who is co-chairman of the party's national finance committee, is cited in several emails looking ahead to a May 18 meeting of President Barack Obama with the Coconut Grove resident and a small group of other big donors at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington.

Two days before the event, DNC national finance director Jordan Kaplan and his Mid-Atlantic deputy Alexandra Shapiro were fretting about where to seat Bittel.

"Bittel said this morning he was coming so just plan on it, but he doesn't sit next to POTUS!" Kaplan told Shapiro.

POTUS is the Secret Service code name for President of the United States.

Shapiro quickly responded: "Yes -- Bittel will be sitting in the s-------t corner I can find."

The next day, in another email about seating for the elite fundraiser, Shapiro provided an update to Zach Allen, another DNC regional finance director.

Shapiro zeroed in on Bittel and Henry R. Munoz, a prominent San Antonio architect who is also co-chairman of the DNC national finance committee.

"So Henry and Bittel are both coming to the roundtable (with Obama) as punishment for something I did in a past life," she emailed Allen.

The two operatives mused about seating Bittel next to DNC finance vice chairman Chris Lowe and his wife, comedy writer Bonnie Datt.

"LOL, Chris and Bonnie think Bittel is a character," Allen told Shapiro. "So if you want to go that route, let me know so I can at least forewarn them but they'll be fine and if it makes your life easier, all the better."

In apparent reference to both Bittel and Munoz, Allen added: "I'm sorry you're having to deal with them."

Bittel, chairman of Terranova Corp., is a friend of Wasserman Schultz. He hosted a dinner for her at a Philadelphia restaurant during the Democratic National Convention shortly after she resigned as DNC head.

The Weston lawmaker quit the top Democratic post after some of the emails revealed disparaging comments by DNC aides about Sen. Bernie Sanders, who former Secretary of State Clinton bested to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

In a separate email exchange, Chadwick Rivard, a top DNC researcher, warned White House aide Bobby Schmuck about another donor with South Florida ties.

Coping the email to a half dozen other DNC operatives, Rivard sent Schmuck a long background description of Palm Beach billionaire George Lindemann Jr., board president of the Bass Museum in Miami Beach who was once an Olympic equestrian hopeful as a highly skilled horse rider.

The biography, part of which came from the Lexis-Nexis database, included Lindemann's 1995 conviction on three counts of wire fraud. That case resulted from a federal probe that found 50 horses had been killed over two decades in acts of insurance fraud.

Lindemann, who has donated to Republican and Democratic politicians, received a 33-month term in federal prison for his role in the scheme.

DNC compliance director Alan Reed, who'd been copied on Rivard's email, rendered his verdict on Lindemann two hours later.

"I vote fail....again," Reed wrote.

To browse the entire Wikileaks trove of 19,252 DNC emails, click here: https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/