November 04, 2016

Hillary for America spends $50K on late media buy for Florida's U.S. Senate race

6a00d83451b26169e201b8d234bb92970c-800wi@ByKristenMClark

Five days before Election Day, the campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton dumped $50,000 into a media buy for Florida's U.S. Senate race -- both in support of Democrat Patrick Murphy and against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio.

The expense on Thursday by "Hillary for America" was reported late Friday in a disclosure report to the Federal Election Commission, according to ProPublica's FEC Itemizer, which tracks campaign finance filings.

This marks the first time Clinton's campaign has put any direct funding behind Murphy, the Democratic Party's long-time hope tasked with unseating Rubio.

Last month, Clinton's campaign said it would be sending $6 million in all to help down-ballot Democrats in key swing states. However, it wasn't revealed at that time whether Murphy would benefit from that or by how much.

It was not immediately clear what Clinton's money would exactly be used for in the final days of Murphy's campaign. (Fifty grand can't buy a lot of TV time in a state like Florida, where ad slots are expensive.)

Clinton has helped elevate Murphy's candidacy in the past few weeks, as polls showed the two-term Jupiter congressman continued to struggle with statewide name recognition against the nationally known Rubio even as Election Day drew closer.

Since mid-October, Murphy has spoken at several of Clinton's campaign rallies in Florida -- including a handful this week -- sometimes ahead of Clinton herself and other times ahead of high-profile surrogates, like President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden or vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Dwight Bullard pushes back on attacks over Israel trip as critics repeat 'terrorist' claims

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@ByKristenMClark

Nearing Election Day in a competitive race, incumbent Miami Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard recently ramped up his defense against weeks-long political attacks over a trip he took to the Middle East last spring.

The normally mild-mannered lawmaker has taken an aggressive approach: He did a lengthy interview on Spanish-language TV last week to address the matter and, this week, has twice publicly rebutted emails blasted out on a pro-Israel mailing list that have attacked Bullard and claim he's anti-Semitic and not answering questions about his trip with a Miami-based social justice organization.

On Friday, one of his former Democratic primary opponents, former Miami-Dade School Board member and state Rep. Ana Rivas Loganalso came to his defense by formally endorsing his campaign.

NBC6 Miami first reported in late August -- a week before the contested Democratic primary in Bullard's District 40 race -- that Bullard had traveled to Palestinian areas of Israel "in the company of a man linked to a terror group."

In the weeks since the primary, allegations about the controversial trip have continued to dog Bullard as they became fodder for continuous attacks.

A political committee for Florida Senate Republicans -- who are backing Bullard's challenger, Miami Republican state Rep. Frank Artiles -- paid for an eye-catching, Spanish-language ad this fall that included footage from the 9/11 terrorist attacks in accusing Bullard of spending time with a "terrorist."

MORE: "GOP ad featuring 9/11 footage accuses Dwight Bullard of meeting with 'terrorist'"

Pro-Israel activist and South Florida businessman Joe Zevuloni, who originally spoke with NBC6, remains outspoken against Bullard. He told the Herald/Times this week that he's not satisfied with explanations Bullard has given.

Continue reading "Dwight Bullard pushes back on attacks over Israel trip as critics repeat 'terrorist' claims" »

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

  Senate 2016 Rubio_Ordo (1)-082516

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

Patrick Murphy's Cuba connection

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@ByKristenMClark

During two U.S. Senate debates last month against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, Democrat Patrick Murphy answered questions about Cuba policy by revealing a little-known detail about his personal life.

The Jupiter congressman -- a Miami native of Irish descent -- said he has Cuban family members.

"I have aunts and cousins that are Cuban," Murphy said at the first debate on Oct. 17. "I remember every Christmas Eve going around, sitting around the caja china (a Cuban pork roaster) talking about politics, talking about Cuba. So I understand that this is a very personal issue for many people."

Ten days later at the second debate, Murphy began his answer with a similar response when Cuba came up again.

"I have some Cuban relatives -- some are here this evening -- and have talked to them at length about this," Murphy said. "And I understand this is personal."

Although he gave similar answers across the two debates, this wasn't a standard line from Murphy's stump speech. It's unclear if he'd ever previously mentioned his family connection to Cuba during his nearly 20 months on the campaign trail.

His campaign told the Herald/Times this week that the relatives Murphy referenced are cousins-in-law.

Murphy's cousin Jimmy Murphy is married to Raquel, and another cousin Mike Murphy is married to Alicia; both women are Cuban-American, his campaign said.

Murphy is in rare company for a major party nominee for U.S. Senate in Florida by supporting an end to the Cuba embargo. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, wants to keep the embargo intact.

Photo credit: AP

Alan Grayson unleashes on Patrick Murphy, Democratic Party

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@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is holding on to his grudge against U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and the Democratic Party establishment that helped Murphy beat Grayson in the Aug. 30 primary.

Since that loss, the sometimes polarizing and notably bombastic Orlando congressman had largely kept a low profile. Grayson has maintained his campaign email list but has used it mostly just to send out fundraising pitches in support of like-minded progressive candidates across the country.

But on Tuesday night, Grayson unloaded to his supporters.

In a scorched-earth rant entitled "What $10 million buys from the Democratic Party," he vented his bitter frustration about Murphy and Democratic Party leaders. The piece is riddled with attacks and accusations against Murphy, his wealthy father and Democratic leaders and fundraising groups -- none of whom have responded to requests for comment from the Herald/Times.

MORE: Read Grayson's email here.

So given his clear disdain, whom is Grayson voting for this fall?

The soon-to-be outgoing congressman reiterated in an email to the Herald/Times: "I will be voting for Hillary Clinton for president. I haven’t decided who will get my Senate vote, but it will not be Patrick Murphy."

In his email blast, Grayson claims a "Murphy political operative" told someone within his own campaign earlier this summer that Murphy's father, Tom Murphy Jr., had made a promise wherein "the Democratic Party could expect to see $10 million if it delivered the nomination to [Patrick] Murphy."

Continue reading "Alan Grayson unleashes on Patrick Murphy, Democratic Party" »

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" »

Legislative candidates who don't live in district they're seeking can't vote for themselves

Ap_flores2@ByKristenMClark

When she votes this fall, veteran Miami Republican lawmaker Anitere Flores might not be able to vote for herself.

Because if she votes in her current precinct, the ballot she receives will have neither her name nor her District 39 Florida Senate race on it. It will list the District 40 race instead.

The same goes for House District 103 candidate Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, a Doral Democrat in her first bid for public office. Rather than seeing her own name on a ballot for the first time, she’ll see candidates for House District 116 if she votes in the precinct she’s assigned to now.

That’s because Flores and Gonzalez Petkovich — along with five other legislative candidates in Miami-Dade — don’t currently live in and aren’t registered to vote in the district that they’re seeking to represent.

The Herald/Times identified the seven candidates — one Republican (Flores) and six Democrats — through an analysis of current voter registration records. These candidates make up 20 percent of the 34 candidates competing for Miami-Dade legislative seats this fall.

More here.

Photo credit: AP

November 02, 2016

Dwight Bullard announced his 2017 'legislative priorities,' but is it a campaign pitch?

Bullard_ap@ByKristenMClark

Incumbent Miami Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard announced on Tuesday — by way of his Florida Senate office — his “top legislative priorities” for the 2017 session.

Ordinarily, such an official message might be considered routine for a state lawmaker to send, except that voters haven’t determined yet whether Bullard will still be in the Florida Legislature next year.

They’re still making up their minds.

And with a week to go until the end of a heated election season, some — including Bullard’s challenger, Republican Miami state Rep. Frank Artiles — question whether the timing, tone and details of Bullard’s announcement make it not unlike a last-minute campaign pitch out of a government office.

State law prohibits candidates from using government services, including public employees during working hours, “in the furtherance of his or her candidacy for nomination or election to public office.”

More here.

Photo credit: AP