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

Three new Florida polls: Trump up 4 in one, dead heat in others

via @adamsmithtimes

An Oct. 25-27 New York Times Upshot/Siena poll shows Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton 46 percent to 42 percent in a four-way race. The poll shows her winning independent voters, but just 29 percent of all white voters and 81 percent of black voters.

Meanwhile, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll finds Clinton with 45 percent support to 44 percent for Trump, with Gary Johnson at 5 and Jill Stein at 2. Clinton and Trump are tied at 46 percent each in a two-person match up. Among the 36 percent who said they already voted, Clinton leads 54 percent to 37, while Trump leads 51 to 42 among those who have not yet voted.

And finally, a new Emerson College poll has Clinton leading Trump, 46 to 45.

The RealClearPolitics.com average for Florida? 44.4 percent to 44.4 percent. Tie.

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.