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" »

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

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

November 01, 2016

Patrick Murphy marches with Rep. John Lewis to promote early voting in Daytona

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@ByKristenMClark

As part of the Democrats' push to promote early voting among African Americans in Florida, U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy joined civil rights leader and Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Tuesday morning for a march from Bethune-Cookman University to a nearby early voting site in Daytona.

Murphy and Lewis were accompanied by students from the historically black university and actress Aja Naomi King, best known for her roles in "The Birth of a Nation" and ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder." King and Lewis are in Florida this week as surrogates for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

"This is one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes and it so important that all Floridians make their voices heard at the ballot box," Murphy said in a campaign statement.

According to the Clinton campaign, King is scheduled to participate in similar early voting events at the University of Florida in Gainesville this afternoon and at both Florida A&M University and Florida State University in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning.

Photo credit: Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign

Misleading slate card purports to show Democrats -- but recommends some Republicans

Democratic action pac mailer@ByKristenMClark

A suspicious slate card recently mailed to some Miami households deceptively represents itself as recommending Democrats but actually encourages voters to support some Republicans, including two incumbents for state Senate: Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores — both of whom are fighting for re-election in newly redrawn, Democratic-leaning districts.

The true source of the mailer is dubious. The political action committee listed on the disclaimer doesn’t exist anymore, never operated in Florida and its treasurers — one of whom has past ties to Diaz de la Portilla — say they have no knowledge of it.

Both Diaz de la Portilla and Flores also said they had no involvement in it and that the first they had heard of the slate card was when a Herald/Times reporter asked for comment Monday.

“I have nothing to do with it; I don’t know it,” Diaz de la Portilla said emphatically.

This isn’t the only deceptive slate card that has surfaced in Miami-Dade County in recent weeks. Another one that was distributed at early voting sites in North Miami-Dade and North Miami also appeared to be pro-Democrat but urged people to vote for Amendment 1, which Democrats oppose, and to support Raquel Regalado for Miami-Dade mayor, one of two Republicans on the ballot.

MORE: Mysterious Democratic slate card says vote yes on Amendment 1 and for Regalado

This new slate card — which was purportedly “paid for and approved by Democratic Action PAC” — was mailed to voters, rather than handed out at polling sites.

Full story here.

Patrick Murphy to attend Hillary Clinton rallies in Sanford, Fort Lauderdale

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@ByKristenMClark

In the final week before Election Day, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy plans to stay busy on the campaign trail appearing with high-profile Democrats campaigning in Florida, either for themselves or as surrogates.

Murphy on Tuesday, for instance, will be with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at her early voting events in Sanford and Fort Lauderdale.

Murphy is scheduled to address the crowd at both evening events and travel with Clinton enroute from Sanford to Fort Lauderdale, Murphy's campaign said.

Murphy, who has struggled with low statewide name recognition, has boosted his profile somewhat in the past few weeks since he first started attending and speaking at Clinton rallies, mostly in South Florida. He's benefited from prominent mentions by Clinton and President Barack Obama and other top Democrats, who simultaneously harshly criticized Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Murphy spoke at four Clinton rallies in October: twice with Clinton herself, first in Miami and then Coconut Creek, and twice with Obama, first in Miami Gardens and then Friday in Orlando.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

October 31, 2016

Obama praises Miami-Dade state Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in new TV ad

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@ByKristenMClark

The Democratic challenger seeking to unseat Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores unveiled a new TV ad on Monday featuring President Barack Obama in voice-over.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Pinecrest resident in her first bid for public office, was one of 13 legislative candidates in Florida that Obama endorsed this month.

She and Flores are in a competitive race for the newly redrawn District 39 seat that spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys. It leans Democratic and Hispanic.

"I know Debbie will fight to defend the progress we've made over the past eight years," Obama says in the ad.

The president also cut a similar endorsement ad for District 37 state Senate candidate and current Miami Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Image credit: Mucarsel-Powell campaign / YouTube

Murphy will donate campaign cash from Boston law firm at center of alleged payback scheme

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@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's campaign says the Jupiter congressman will donate nearly $22,000 in political contributions he received from a Boston law firm that was exposed by The Boston Globe this weekend for allegedly engaging in a donation scheme.

The Globe, partnering with the Center for Responsive Politics, found that attorneys at the Thornton Law Firm have for several years been given "bonuses" to offset political contributions they have made, particularly to Democratic candidates -- including top party leaders and, this year, Murphy.

The newspaper reported that through what it calls a "payback system," three of the firm's partners alone received $1.4 million in "bonuses" between 2010-14, while at the same time donating nearly $1.6 million. "More than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days," according to the report.

MORE from The Boston Globe: "Law firm ‘bonuses’ tied to political donations"

Records from the Federal Elections Commission show Murphy received $21,800 from seven attorneys at the Thornton Law Firm, all on Jan. 28 of this year. Murphy's campaign said the donations were given during a Murphy fundraiser that month.

"The Globe's investigation has revealed troubling details about these donations," Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp said in a statement Monday. "We'll be donating them to the U.S. Treasury, because that is the right thing to do."

State and national Republicans on Sunday called on Murphy to immediately return what they called "dirty campaign cash from this illegal scheme."

By Sunday night, two high-profile Democratic U.S. Senate candidates had announced they would: Russ Feingold of Wisconsin (who received $45,000) and Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire (who received more than $30,000).

"It should not come as a surprise that once again, Patrick Murphy has added another shady campaign contribution case to his long list of politically illegal and unethical campaign finance problems," Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement Sunday calling on Murphy to "return the tainted contributions."

This summer, a national Republican super PAC accused Murphy of being involved in a different "straw donor" scheme, because he and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist each received donations from similar sources in 2011. (Murphy's campaign called that allegation "totally false.") The Hill reported in September that the FEC had started a preliminary review of the complaint.

Photo credit: AP