October 30, 2016

Patrick Murphy sold stock in family company to cover last-minute $1M campaign loan

Murphy_1stdebate_1017_ap@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy says he sold personal stock in his family's construction company, Miami-based Coastal Construction Group, in order to afford a recent $1 million loan to his campaign.

Murphy's campaign announced the loan last week as something that would give the cash-strapped Jupiter congressman additional resources to run TV ads across the state in the final two weeks of his bid to unseat Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio, however, has questioned how Murphy could have come by such a hefty loan when Murphy doesn't have the cash assets to cover it, based on his most recent congressional financial disclosure.

"It was basically a stock sale, of stock I had," Murphy explained to reporters during a campaign visit to Tallahassee on Sunday.

When asked whether the stock in question was specifically Murphy's investment in Coastal, Murphy said: "Yes."

Paperwork is not yet available that would show how the loan was reported to the Federal Election Commission and how the stock sale was reported to the U.S. House, as required within 30 days of the sale under the 2012 STOCK Act.

"We are completely compliant with that [and] have attorneys helping out to make sure it's all compliant," Murphy said.

Murphy's campaign later Sunday did not respond to a follow-up inquiry about to whom Murphy sold his investment. Coastal is a private, family-owned company founded and managed by Murphy's father, Tom Murphy Jr. -- who has spent at least $2.8 million this cycle on Democratic efforts supporting his son's Senate run.

Patrick Murphy's financial disclosure from 2015 shows his net worth was between $72,000 and almost $4.8 million -- much of that coming from stock in Coastal worth between $1 million and $5 million. The investment was a "gift" from Murphy's father in 2012 before Murphy took office. 

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy sold stock in family company to cover last-minute $1M campaign loan" »

October 29, 2016

Marco Rubio says Patrick Murphy 'should release his tax returns' after personal loan

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@ByKristenMClark

Ten days before voters decide Florida's U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Marco Rubio is calling on his Democratic challenger to release his tax returns.

Rubio said U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's announcement this week of a $1 million personal loan to his campaign raises questions about Murphy's finances. Murphy's financial disclosure from 2015 indicated his net worth was between $72,000 and almost $4.8 million -- but most of that is tied up in stock and investments, not cash assets.

"Where did he get the money from?" Rubio said, when speaking to reporters in Palm Beach County on Friday. (His campaign widely distributed the comments Saturday.) "I mean, it certainly doesn’t reflect what you see in his financial disclosures. It sounds like his wealth is largely tied up in stock in his family’s business."

Murphy's investments include $1 million and $5 million of stock in his family's Coastal Construction Group, a "gift" from his father in 2012 before Murphy took office.

“Now more than ever, I think Floridians deserve to know how he makes his money and where his money comes from," Rubio said of Murphy. "He certainly doesn’t make that a year as a congressman."

The release of tax returns is common for presidential candidates. Rubio did so when he was one recently, although Rubio's current pick for president, Republican Donald Trump, has bucked years of precedent in refusing to disclose any pages from his.

U.S. senators are not required to release their tax returns, either, but there is precedent from Rubio's first U.S. Senate race six years ago. Notably, though, Rubio's release of his tax returns has been only summaries, not the whole document.

"In 2010, when I ran for Senate, I released 10 years, and Kendrick Meek, the Democratic nominee did as well, and Charlie Crist did as well," Rubio said. "But, he [Murphy] refuses to release not even one page of one tax return.”

When asked for comment Saturday morning, Murphy's campaign reiterated a statement it released a week ago, in which they disclosed Murphy's tax rate but no other details from his tax return. The campaign said Murphy had been "transparent with the voters, disclosing his income, assets, and liabilities every year in his congressional financial disclosures."

Congressional financial disclosures offer a broad look at members' financial situations, because they're allowed to report assets and liabilities through wide ranges. That's why, for example, we don't know how much exactly Murphy's stock in his family's company is worth.

Nationally, the argument for Trump to release his tax returns has been that those documents would reveal more specific details about the candidate's financial situation than provided in federally required financial disclosures. Murphy co-sponsored legislation in June mandating major-party presidential candidates to release their tax returns.

Photo credit: AP

Doral College, Flores accuse her challenger of 'untrue, malicious statements'

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@ByKristenMClark

Miami Republican incumbent state Sen. Anitere Flores and her previous employer, Doral College, allege that Flores' opponent has made "untrue and malicious" statements that are "damaging" the college's reputation.

Doral College sent a letter to the Florida Democratic Party recently demanding that the party stop publishing and correct TV ads and direct-mail pieces that the college says contain "false" statements.

The state party is supporting Democrat and political newcomer Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, of Pinecrest, who's aiming to unseat Flores for Miami-Dade's District 39 Senate seat. The newly redrawn district is heavily Hispanic and leans Democratic.

Doral College in its letter -- which Flores' campaign provided to the Herald/Times -- accused the Democratic Party of repeating two falsehoods: "that Doral College is a for-profit college and the degrees obtained by its students are worthless."

"These claims are objectively false and warrant immediate correction," wrote Ryan Kairalla, the college's general counsel. Here's an example of a direct-mail piece containing the claims Flores and Doral College took issue with.

Kairalla is correct that the Democratic Party erred in referring to Doral College as a "for-profit" college. It is a not-for-profit institution -- although the company that it's associated with is for-profit -- but whether the college's degrees are "worthless" is a matter of continued dispute in the political battle between supporters of charter school programs and those who favor more traditional educational options.

Mucarsel-Powell said Flores' and Doral College's complaints were "yet another desperate attempt by Anitere Flores to distract from her shameful 12-year record in Tallahassee."

Continue reading "Doral College, Flores accuse her challenger of 'untrue, malicious statements'" »

October 28, 2016

Patrick Murphy on new FBI review of Clinton emails: 'I expect we'll all be learning more soon'

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@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has been all-in on Hillary Clinton since she first launched her presidential campaign, and he has loyally stuck by her during congressional and federal investigations over the private email server she kept as Secretary of State.

With news Friday afternoon that the FBI was potentially re-opening its probe into Clinton after finding new emails "pertinent to the investigation," Murphy's campaign re-affirmed the Jupiter congressman's trust in Clinton -- but wouldn't initially address the fresh controversy facing her 11 days before Election Day.

Murphy's campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen did not directly answer questions from the Herald/Times on Friday afternoon as to whether Murphy had a response to the FBI's new review of Clinton's emails, whether he found the matter at all concerning and whether it, in any way, changed his level of support for Clinton.

Slayen said only: "Patrick trusts Hillary Clinton with the nuclear codes, which is more than Marco Rubio can say about his preferred candidate for president, Donald Trump."

Pivoting to attack Rubio, Florida's Republican incumbent U.S. senator, about his support for Trump has been a common response from Murphy's campaign this month, including in the two debates Murphy and Rubio have had.

Ninety minutes after Slayen provided the campaign's statement (and after the Herald/Times noted the campaign's lack of comment), Murphy's campaign followed up with this additional statement from Murphy himself:

"Secretary Clinton has said her use of personal email was a mistake and has apologized for it. This just became public, and I expect we'll all be learning more soon."

Murphy has spoken at Clinton rallies in Florida four times this month: twice with Clinton herself first in Miami and then Coconut Creek and twice with President Barack Obama first in Miami Gardens and then this evening in Orlando.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

*This post was updated at 6:15 p.m. with additional comment from Murphy's campaign.

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.

Pro-Murphy super PAC uses new cash to recycle attack ad on Rubio

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@ByKristenMClark

Flush with fresh cash from national Democrats and other donors, a super PAC supporting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy is re-airing an attack ad in Miami that criticizes Republican incumbent Marco Rubio's Senate record.

The ad that the pro-Murphy "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" announced Friday actually first debuted a month ago, when it was launched by the Senate Majority PAC, a national Democratic super PAC. "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" says it's spending at least $100,000 to air the ad in Miami through Election Day.

On Thursday, the Senate Majority PAC announced it was giving at least $1 million to "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" to prop up Murphy's campaign in the final days of the race. "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" spokeswoman Ashley Walker said the latest ad buy is being funded in part from that money, as well as money from other supporters.

"It’s bad enough that Rubio rarely shows up to work, but it’s worse when he actually does and votes against our state’s best interests," Walker said in a statement.

Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez Cubas said in response: "Patrick Murphy has been in Congress for four years and has nothing to show for it, so he and his allies are attacking Marco. Florida already has a senator with a strong record of fighting for them, and that's why they're going to re-elect Marco." 

Recent polls show Rubio is maintaining an edge in the race, but Murphy has been able to narrow the gap in the past couple weeks.

Image credit: Floridians for a Strong Middle Class / YouTube

Miami Republican billionaire backs Murphy for U.S. Senate, donates to super PAC

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@ByKristenMClark & @PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Mike Fernandez, a billionaire healthcare executive, plans to vote for Democrat Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent Marco Rubio in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Fernandez told the Miami Herald in an email.

Fernandez recently backed up that support with a $100,000 donation to a super PAC supporting Murphy, money that is affording the group to make last-minute moves to prop up Murphy’s candidacy in the competitive contest against Rubio.

Fernandez — a top Jeb Bush donor in the GOP presidential primary who formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in September — told the Herald late Thursday that the main reason he’s voting for Murphy is because of the Jupiter congressman’s support for lifting the Cuba embargo.

More here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

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

October 26, 2016

White House: Obama 'committed to strongly supporting' Patrick Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a press briefing Wednesday that President Barack Obama is "committed to strongly supporting" Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign in Florida -- but the White House won't weigh in on how national Democratic groups should spend their money helping Murphy versus other U.S. Senate candidates.

Between early September and mid-October, the Senate Majority super PAC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled $16 million in planned TV ad spending the groups had reserved to fortify Murphy's campaign this fall against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The decisions came as Murphy gained little, if any, ground on Rubio in September, causing the Democrats to re-direct their resources to other competitive -- and potentially more winnable -- Senate contests elsewhere.

But in the past two weeks, Murphy's campaign picked up steam again.

Recent polls show the race very close. And Murphy has gotten vocal praise from both Obama and Hillary Clinton during their recent visits to Florida, which has helped Murphy's name ID and his support among the Democratic base.

But the Democrats' money hasn't returned -- and if it did, the ad time would be vastly more expensive than before.

Some Democratic leaders are questioning the DSCC's earlier decision to withdraw from Florida and not more aggressively help Murphy unseat Rubio, according to a story by Politico on Tuesday.

When Earnest was asked Wednesday whether Obama had an opinion on if Democrats should do as much as they can to take out Rubio (and consequently help Murphy), Earnest said: "I can tell you that President Obama is traveling down to Florida because he believes that Congressman Murphy is the right person to represent the state of Florida in the United States Senate. And he will reiterate that case once again on Friday in Orlando."

"The president feels strongly about the race," Earnest added. "When it comes to the strategy that's implemented by the DSCC, those are decisions for them to make. But the president is -- is certainly committed to strongly supporting Congressman Murphy's campaign and is optimistic about his prospects."

McClatchy D.C. reporter Lesley Clark contributed to this report.

Photo credit: Miami Herald

Tonight is the second -- and final -- debate night for Rubio and Murphy

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida’s U.S. Senate race has, at last, shifted into a position long predicted by political observers and even the candidates themselves: A neck-and-neck contest that will go down to the wire between Marco Rubio, the Republican incumbent, and Patrick Murphy, the Democratic challenger.

The candidates’ second and final debate Wednesday night is among their last chances to gain an edge in the competitive contest and to draw the support of undecided voters who’ve yet to cast their ballots.

The debate begins at 7 p.m. at Broward College in Davie.

More details here on what to expect and how to watch.