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

Mock website by Rubio trolls Murphy for withholding tax returns

Capture@ByKristenMClark

Marco Rubio is doubling down on his call for his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, to release his tax returns, and Rubio's campaign is amplifying that message with a mock website that trolls Murphy's decision to not release them.

Rubio's campaign launched MurphyTaxReturns.com on Monday morning. The site includes a "click here" link to purportedly guide visitors to Murphy's tax returns only to bump them to a series of "error" pages that insinuate Murphy could be hiding any number of things in his tax returns, such as "money made from business with Donald Trump."

The site features prominently a recently unearthed photo from 2007, which shows Murphy's father and the Republican presidential nominee at a groundbreaking for one of Trump's South Florida high-rises. Murphy insists his family's Coastal Construction Group never did direct business with Trump, but Coastal and Trump were both involved in two Trump-branded projects in South Florida.

MORE FROM POLITIFACT: "Patrick Murphy says his family never did business with Donald Trump, but it's more complicated"

Rubio's campaign argues that viewing Murphy's tax returns is now relevant because Murphy recently guaranteed a $1 million personal loan to his cash-strapped campaign, for which Murphy didn't have the cash assets to cover based on his financial disclosure.

Murphy told reporters in Tallahassee on Sunday that he sold stock from Coastal in order to pay for the loan; he had between $1 million and $5 million invested in the company, a "gift" from his father several years ago.

And Murphy again dismissed questions about why he won't release his tax returns, calling it something that "presidential candidates do" even though there's precedent from Florida's 2010 U.S. Senate race, Rubio's first Senate contest.

"Patrick Murphy’s decision to make a $1 million loan to his campaign is all the more reason why Florida voters deserve to see his tax returns," Rubio campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement Monday. "Murphy says ‘democracy requires transparency’ and wants to force others to release their tax returns, but his refusal to be transparent with voters begs the question: What is Patrick Murphy hiding?"

Rubio already released summaries of his tax returns this year as part of his previous presidential campaign.

Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the website "an odd attack for Marco Rubio, who enthusiastically endorses Donald Trump for President." Trump has famously bucked decades of tradition in refusing to release his tax returns this year.

"Marco Rubio’s attempt to distract from his Trump problem with a website is laughable," Slayen said.

Murphy co-sponsored legislation in June mandating major-party presidential candidates to release their tax returns. Murphy says he's been "very transparent" about his own finances because he files federally required financial disclosure forms every year.

Image credit: Marco Rubio campaign / MurphyTaxReturns.com

*This post has been updated with comment from Murphy's campaign.

GOP super PAC spends another $3M in fresh ad attack against 'Party Boy Patrick' Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

A national Republican super PAC has launched a new attack ad against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, which is airing in Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach.

The Senate Leadership Fund debuted the ad Saturday as part of a new $3.2 million ad buy in the final 10 days of the election. The group is spending $11 million in all on TV advertising this fall to tear down Murphy as he challenges Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

In its new ad, the Senate Leadership Fund dubs the two-term Jupiter congressman "Party Boy Patrick" and attacks him for embellishing his academic and professional résumés and for being among the "least effective" members of Congress.

PolitiFact has looked at ads using similar attacks before: on Murphy embellishing his University of Miami degree ("Mostly True"), on him exaggerating his business experience (It's complicated), and on him being an ineffective congressman ("Mostly False").

MORE from PolitiFact: "No, Patrick Murphy, PolitiFact did not debunk every attack against you"

Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen called the ad "false and desperate."

"Marco Rubio and his allies are getting desperate as the polls have tightened and Patrick's campaign has the momentum," Slayen said.

While Murphy was able to narrow Rubio's lead during October, Rubio still holds the advantage in the race and could actually be widening that, according to two new polls released Sunday.

Murphy's campaign has routinely tried to discredit attacks on Murphy's résumé, with Murphy repeating falsely during two recent debates that PolitiFact had debunked "all" of them. That's not the case.

SLF's ad closes with a controversial image of Murphy that Rubio publicized in their first debate: a several years-old image of Murphy appearing to grab the breast of, according to his campaign, a former college girlfriend. Rubio tried to use it against Murphy but it got little traction after Rubio's initial mention of it.

 Image credit: Senate Leadership Fund / YouTube

October 30, 2016

Two polls released Sunday show Marco Rubio with widening lead over Patrick Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio could be widening what was recently a narrow lead over Democrat Patrick Murphy, according to two new statewide polls released Sunday.

Rubio had a 9 percentage-point lead in the latest New York Times Upshot / Siena poll of Florida, and he led Murphy by 8 percentage points in a new NBC / Wall Street Journal / Marist survey.

Both polls were conducted last week, during the same time period three other polls were done -- two of which also had Rubio leading (albeit by narrower margins) and one that had them tied.

Both campaigns are, not unsurprisingly, promoting only the polls that favor their position.

Rubio has touted these two new polls, along with a mid-October Bloomberg poll that had Rubio 10 points up, as showing him running away with the race. Meanwhile, Murphy -- as recently as Sunday -- has said the race is "dead tied" between him and Rubio -- a reference to two polls in October that found the pair evenly matched.

Murphy has not led in any of the more than 30 statewide polls that have been conducted since Rubio re-entered the race in late June.

In the new NBC/WSJ/Marist survey, Rubio had 51 percent support among 779 likely voters surveyed, compared to 43 percent support for Murphy. Four percent supported another candidate and 2 percent were undecided. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. (Among registered voters, Rubio's advantage was the same.)

By comparison, the previous NBC/WSJ/Marist survey three weeks prior had Rubio up by just 2 percentage points, which indicates he's growing his lead.

For the new NYT Upshot / Siena poll of 814 likely voters, Rubio led Murphy 51 percent to 42 percent. Five percent were undecided and 2 percent said they wouldn't vote in the race. The survey, done Oct. 25-27, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

“Marco Rubio is running 7 points ahead of Donald Trump in Florida and has established himself as a front-runner to keep his seat in the Senate,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Before these two polls were released Sunday, Rubio still held an edge over Murphy but polls indicated Murphy was narrowing the gap in October.

Image credit: AP