February 12, 2016

Harry Reid says Alan Grayson should end U.S. Senate run; Grayson condemns 'absurd' remark

Alangrayson01wmm

@ByKristenMClark

The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate said Friday afternoon that U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, should "immediately" drop out of the race for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat, because of a scathing New York Times report over Grayson's controversial management of a once-off-shore hedge fund.

The Associated Press first reported the blistering statement from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who rarely issues such remarks. Grayson, a firebrand progressive, called Reid’s comments “absurd” and gave no indication Friday of ending his campaign.

"Grayson claims to be a progressive, but it seems like he has no moral compass," Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in the statement -- which came a day after a New York Times article that delved more deeply into Grayson's hedge funds, following months of other media reports on the topic.

The Tampa Bay Times has also investigated the hedge funds, which until last fall were based in the Cayman Islands.

The New York Times obtained “emails and marketing documents” probing what it called Grayson’s “double life” as both congressman and hedge fund manager.

The newspaper cited interviews and documents that it said revealed "Grayson told potential investors in his hedge fund that they should contribute money to the fund to capitalize on the unrest he observed around the world, and to take particular advantage when there was 'blood in the streets.' "

Grayson remains under a congressional ethics investigation because of the hedge funds. He denies any wrongdoing.

Reid said the "deeply troubling allegations" raised by the New York Times report "should disqualify anyone from a seat in the U.S. Senate."

"His actions aren't just disgraceful to the Democratic Party, they disgrace the halls of Congress," Reid said.

In a lengthy response sent to the Herald/Times, Grayson declared he's "running against a rigged system and the Washington establishment." He said Reid's remarks, although "no surprise," "rely on a false and misleading hyped story to try to pressure me out of this race."

Grayson -- known for his brash and direct speak -- pulled no punches on Reid, The New York Times, or his opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Reid is among many current Democratic U.S. senators whose political committees have given money to Murphy's campaign.

Grayson called Murphy a "corrupt establishment errand boy" whom he said Reid prefers, and Grayson accused Reid of "personally attacking the clear choice of Florida Democrats, making the party into a circular firing squad."

Murphy's campaign did not want to comment.

Grayson further blasted The New York Times, describing the newspaper's report as "replete with misleading statements, innuendo and outright lies, and despite that, there is nothing in the report that even suggest (sic) any improper or unethical conduct."

New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said Friday: “We stand by our story.”

Grayson said he "never used my congressional office to advance any business interest or for personal gain, and to say so is utterly deceitful." Grayson added that he also "resents" Reid's attack on his morals.

"I question the morality and judgment of any elected official, much less one in my own party, who would sink so low as to engage in such a smear," Grayson said.

Grayson and Murphy are in a heated party primary for a race that could ultimately decide which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

Grayson has drawn passionate support from grassroots progressive donors, while Murphy has the backing of the party establishment.

Murphy has so far out-fundraised not only Grayson but also each of the four major candidates in the Republican primary. They are: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox.

Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff could also enter the GOP field.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Alan Grayson echoes conservatives, slams Patrick Murphy super PAC over donor with ties to visa program

@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, is attacking his Democratic opponent in Florida's U.S. Senate race over donations a pro-Patrick Murphy super PAC received from a wealthy donor who stands to benefit from legislation Murphy supported two years ago (but which he hasn't signed on to this session).

Grayson's swipe at the Jupiter congressman comes a day after Grayson himself took heat in the media when The New York Times delved deeper into Grayson's hedge fund management controversy, which the Tampa Bay Times has also reported on.

In a rarity, Grayson's attack on Murphy allies the progressive Democrat with a conservative super PAC, American Crossroads, which has been blasting Murphy on the same donor issue for weeks.

In its most recent campaign finance disclosure, "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" -- which was established last spring to help Murphy's campaign for U.S. Senate -- reported a $50,000 donation from "230 East 63rd-6 Trust LLC" amid $500,000 in contributions it collected since July. (Murphy's father also donated $200,000 to the super PAC, records showed. Super PACs are not bound by contribution limits nor can they coordinate directly with the candidate.)

As the Herald/Times previously reported, Florida business registration filings show the trust company is an "inactive" business venture associated with Nicholas Mastroianni II. Mastroianni developed the $150 million Harbourside project in Murphy's home city of Jupiter in Palm Beach County. Mastroianni's son, Anthony, also gave $5,000 to the super PAC, the filing showed.

Fortune two years ago profiled Nicholas Mastroianni as someone who benefits from the EB-5 visa program, which the magazine said "essentially allows wealthy foreigners to buy U.S. citizenship by investing $500,000 in a project that creates U.S. jobs."

In 2014, Murphy was one of seven co-sponsors on a bill that would have made the EB-5 program permanent, but the bill died in committee. 

“The bills that Murphy sponsors appear to carry price tags,” Grayson spokesman David Damron said in the campaign statement today. “Patrick’s Daddy PAC should return these deceptive LLC donations. They have the look of someone trying to hide a pay to play scheme.”

It's unclear how Mastroianni's latest donations equate to "pay to play," though, because Murphy has not co-sponsored a similar measure introduced during this session of Congress.

The EB-5 visa program has been reauthorized for two decades, with bipartisan support. The permanent extension of it was also included in 2013 immigration reform legislation, which both Murphy and Grayson supported.

Grayson and Murphy are battling it out for the August Democratic primary in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Grayson has drawn passionate support from grassroots progressive donors, while Murphy has the backing of the party establishment. Murphy has so far out-fundraised not only Grayson but also each of the four major candidates in the Republican primary.

February 03, 2016

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. endorses Alan Grayson in U.S. Senate race

Rfk jr

@ByKristenMClark

The son of former U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Bobby Kennedy is backing U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, in Florida's contentious Democratic primary in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate next year.

The endorsement of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. marks one of the few but most high-profile names yet to pick Grayson over U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who's drawn considerable support among the party establishment.

Grayson, in contrast, has earned most of his favor in progressive circles.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and progressive radio host, touted Grayson's strength in standing up against special interests, particularly on energy and environmental issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline.

He heralded Grayson as "the lone, true environmental defender in this Senate race."

“It’s a comfort to know Democrats like Alan Grayson still exist in Washington,” Kennedy said in a statement provided by Grayson's campaign. “He’s one of those who will not compromise in what they believe and fight for. We need Alan in the Senate.”

Photo credit: AP

February 01, 2016

Pro-Patrick Murphy super PAC raises $500K to end 2015, including $200K from Murphy's father

@ByKristenMClark

A super PAC that launched last spring to support Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate bid raised $535,000 from donors since July -- including $200,000 from Murphy's father.

The fundraising haul for "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" was revealed today in the super PAC's end-of-year disclosure report to the Federal Elections Commission, which was due Sunday. The super PAC reports its finances every six months.

Through June, the committee had just $25,000 in donations, so its collections in the latter six months of the year reveal a stark increase in activity. Super PACs are not bound by the $2,700 cap on individual contributions -- as candidate's campaign committees are -- nor can they coordinate directly with the candidate.

The super PAC's warchest is separate from the $4.3 million Murphy has in the bank for his personal campaign committee.

Murphy's father, construction executive Thomas Murphy, gave $200,000 to "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" just before year's end, the report showed. Thomas Murphy has a history of donating to political candidates in both parties, including his son.

Other large donations detailed in the disclosure report include $100,000 from a "Michael Smith" of Boulder, Co. (his employer information wasn't listed), $50,000 from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama and $50,000 from "230 East 63rd-6 Trust LLC."

According to Florida business registration filings, that company is an "inactive" business venture associated with Nicholas Mastroianni II. Mastroianni developed the $150 million Harbourside project in Patrick Murphy's home city of Jupiter in Palm Beach County. Mastroianni's son, Anthony, also gave $5,000 to the super PAC, the filing showed.

Conservatives aiming to retain the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate quickly jumped on the revelations in the super PAC's disclosure by accusing Murphy's family and friends of "buying him a seat in the Senate."

“Whether it's his father or a mysterious ‘trust’ giving him big money, Murphy is nothing but a campaign finance hypocrite who wants to buy his way up the political ladder,” said Ian Prior, a spokesman for the Senate Leadership Fund, which is associated with conservative super PAC American Crossroads.

Murphy is running in the Democratic primary against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, and North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith.

Patrick Murphy leads fundraising among crowded field in Florida's U.S. Senate race

@ByKristenMClark and @MichaelAuslen

Among the six major candidates from both parties running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate next year, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, continues to dominate the field in both quarterly fundraising and in the amount of money he's got on hand to spend.

Reports detailing fundraising efforts for the last three months of 2015 were due to the Federal Election Commission on Sunday. U.S. Senate campaigns typically file paper copies through the secretary of the Senate, so specific details on each candidate's donors and expenditures aren't yet available.

On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, is leading in fundraising and on Sunday went after U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, for posting a weak fourth quarter.

Here's a recap of what each campaign has reported their candidate's fundraising to be for the fourth quarter, which covers the period between October and December. (These figures do not include fundraising from allied super PACS, which some candidates have.)

PATRICK MURPHY (D)

CASH ON HAND: $4.3 MILLION

Murphy vaulted to the top of the fundraising race several months ago, thanks to an early start to his campaign last spring and subsequent backing from key Democrats and party establishment supporters.

For the fourth quarter, his campaign said the Jupiter congressman raised $1.46 million, leaving him with nearly $4.3 million in the bank to spend heading into 2016. That latter figure is more than 16 times the amount his Democratic primary opponent -- U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- reported to have in cash on hand, as of Dec. 31.

RON DESANTIS (R)

CASH ON HAND: $2.5 MILLION

The congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach leads the Republican candidates in fundraising and is second overall.

DeSantis reported raising $772,000 in the fourth quarter and said he had about $2.5 million in the bank, as of Dec. 31. That warchest is almost six times more than that of Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who trails the Republican field.

TODD WILCOX (R)

CASH ON HAND: $873,656

Wilcox, a defense contractor from Orlando, raised $324,641 in the last quarter — topping $1 million for the year.

And he has nearly $900,000 in the bank, more than any Republican candidate except DeSantis.

DAVID JOLLY (R)

CASH ON HAND: $507,000

Jolly’s campaign raised $112,000 in the final quarter of 2015, also topping $1 million for the cycle. Shortly after the news broke, the DeSantis campaign released a statement drawing attention to the numbers, which Jolly released over the weekend when they might garner less attention.

In response, Max Goodman, Jolly's political director, said this about DeSantis: "Sadly, it's the only part of his political career he attends to, as evidenced by his recent missed votes to hang out with mega donors and college kids in Vegas, while Rep. Jolly and his House colleagues were attending to legislation to fund our veterans, law enforcement and 9/11 first responders.”

CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA (R)

CASH ON HAND: $431,000

Despite endorsements from many key state lawmakers, Florida's lieutenant governor from Miami is well behind in fundraising.

Lopez-Cantera reported raising $318,000 in the last three months of 2015 and said he had $431,000 in cash on hand, heading into this year.

ALAN GRAYSON (D)

CASH ON HAND: ~$258,000

The Orlando congressman touts "an army of small-dollar progressive donors" but he has failed to catch up to Murphy's fundraising momentum, after joining the Democratic side of the race in mid-summer. Grayson reported raising $491,000 from donors during the fourth quarter, and Grayson himself added to that by making a $100,000 loan -- which is on top of previous loans he's given his campaign.

As of Friday, Grayson's campaign was still tallying his exact cash on hand, but his spokesman said it was around the same amount "or slightly less" than what Grayson had heading into October (which was $258,700).

North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also running in the Democratic primary race against Murphy and Grayson. Her fundraising previously has been nominal, and her campaign did not return an email from the Herald/Times on Friday requesting her fourth-quarter fundraising figures.

January 29, 2016

Keystone XL grassroots opponent endorses Alan Grayson

@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, announced today that he's picked up the endorsement of Jane Kleeb, a grassroots organizer who helped kill the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

Kleeb heralded Grayson for his strength in opposing the project despite facing political pressure.

"No other candidate in this race will protect our environment and fight for clean energy jobs with the same guts as Alan Grayson," Kleeb said in a statement provided by Grayson's campaign.

The endorsement is another example of divergent support for Grayson and his primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Earlier today, Murphy announced he's gotten the backing of the Laborers' International Union of North America, adding to his cache of party establishment support in contrast to Grayson's progressive, more grassroots base.

LIUNA, like Murphy, supported the Keystone XL project.

Murphy and Grayson are competing in the Democratic party primary in August for the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Alan Grayson announces $591,000 in fundraising - including new personal loan - to end 2015

Grayson

@ByKristenMClark

Despite "an army of small-dollar progressive donors," U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson continues to lag well behind fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in fundraising for the Democratic primary of Florida's high-profile U.S. Senate contest.

Grayson's campaign told the Herald/Times today the Orlando congressman took in $591,000 for the three-month filing period between October and December, with average donations around $28 from 9,300 individuals representing more than 240 Florida communities and all 50 states.

The total includes a new $100,000 loan Grayson gave his campaign, which is in addition to previous personal loans he's made, the campaign said.

Spokesman David Damron said the campaign is still calculating exactly how much Grayson had in cash on hand as of Dec. 31, but Damron said it's around the same amount "or slightly less" than what Grayson had heading into October.

Grayson reported $258,700 in the bank, as of Sept. 30.

Meanwhile, Murphy -- the party establishment's favored candidate -- announced his fourth-quarter fundraising totals last week.

The Jupiter congressman said he raised $1.46 million from October through December -- which, by comparison, is about 2.5 times as much as Grayson said he took in during the same time-frame. Murphy said he had nearly $4.3 million on hand in his U.S. Senate campaign, as of Dec. 31.

Fourth-quarter fundraising reports are due to the Federal Election Commission by Jan. 31. Senate campaigns typically file paper copies through the secretary of the Senate, so specific details on Grayson's and Murphy's most-recent fundraising aren't yet available.

Grayson's campaign expressed optimism for 2016, saying it "already set a new, one-month record for contributions in January" and has new, continuing pledges that total $60,000 a month going forward.

“This campaign is fueled by retirees and veterans, and people who work in classrooms or drive buses, not wealthy lobbyists and special interests," political director Mario Piscatella said in a campaign statement.

North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also seeking the Democratic nomination. Her fundraising has been nominal.

The Murphy-Grayson contest is drawing a lot of national attention, as Murphy has built momentum off support from key Democrats and union groups, while Grayson has picked up endorsements from notable progressives and grassroots supporters, including both the state and national Progressive Democrats of America.

Florida's U.S. Senate race is seen as one of the pivotal seats for both Republicans and Democrats to win, because it could decide which party controls the upper chamber of Congress next year.

Four candidates are running in the Republican primary: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox.

Photo credit: AP

Laborers' union endorses Patrick Murphy in Florida U.S. Senate contest

CZ5LI5fWEAA-0kC

@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, picked up another high-profile endorsement on Friday in his bid to be the Democratic Party's candidate in Florida's U.S. Senate race to replace Marco Rubio.

The Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) announced its support for Murphy during a campaign event in Pompano Beach.

"He supports our working families and we believe that his commonsense approach to leadership is exactly what Florida needs right now," Glenn Farner, business manager of LIUNA’s Southeast Laborers' District Council, said in a statement provided by the campaign. "Time and again, Patrick has proven that he will fight to protect our workers’ rights, fight for their hard-earned, high-quality union health benefits, and fight to raise the minimum wage.”

Murphy has continued to rack up endorsements from the party establishment and key interest groups in the competitive primary against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando.

Grayson, meanwhile, is drawing his support from state and national progressives and grassroots donors. North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

National experts say the outcome of Florida's race could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate a year from now.

The Republican Party of Florida had this to say on Murphy's latest announcement:

“While Patrick Murphy attempts to hide the rapidly growing support behind Alan Grayson with the endorsements of a job-killing union, the truth remains that he is more focused on advancing his personal political ambitions than the best interest of Florida families," RPOF spokesman Wadi Gaitan said in a statement.

It's an example of one of the party's efforts to drive a greater wedge between Grayson and Murphy and add fuel to their rivalry.

Four candidates are running in the Republican primary: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox.

Photo credit: @gslayen / Patrick Murphy campaign

 

January 28, 2016

Scott: Don't count Jeb out

@jamesmartinrose

Gov. Rick Scott hasn't written off one of his famous predecessor's chances of becoming president.

Scott, in Washington to deliver an address on reforming hospital pricing practices at the American Enterprise Institute, put on his politics hat after the talk.

Scott, governor since 2011, said it's too soon to give up on former Gov. Jeb Bush despite his failure to gain traction in polls.

 "I still think it's early," Scott told the Miami Herald. "I mean, we haven't even done the first primary yet."

Scott said that Bush "was a very successful governor" when he headed the state from 1999 to 2007, noting in particular his education reforms.

"We're at a 12-year high in our K-12 graduation rate," Scott said.

Adding that "Jeb is working hard," Scott said, "The person that works the hardest generally wins."

Despite praising Bush's record in Florida, Scott declined to endorse him. Neither is he endorsing -- yet -- fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, the first-term U.S. senator, nor any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls.

"Like a lot of voters in Florida, I'm watching the candidates," the governor said.

Four days before the Feb.1 Iowa caucuses, Bush tallied just 4 percent in a NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of that state's Republican voters released Thursday. He was far behind businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio of Florida, while also trailing neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Bush is faring better in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary Feb. 9, according to a poll released Thursday by Suffolk University. Bush broke out of the single digits with 11 percent, putting him in a second-place tie with Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Rubio, with all four men well behind Trump's 27 percent standing.

In addition to Bush, Scott said he has personal relationships with Rubio, along with Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie through the Republican Governors Association.

Scott criticized the Republican National Committee for having scheduled just nine presidential debates this year.

"I wish the national party hadn't limited the number of debates and limited the locations," he said.

The RNC is weighing three additional possible Republican presidential debates.

The March 10 GOP debate will be at the University of Miami, nine days after Super Tuesday, when 14 states will hold Republican primaries or caucuses. Florida will hold its primary on March 15.

Scott declined to comment directly on Trump's decision to skip Thursday night's Fox News debate because of his ongoing feud with Megyn Kelly, one of its moderators.

"Every candidate's got to think about what's the best forum for them to get their message out, whether it's debates, whether it's town halls," Scott said.

 

January 27, 2016

Patrick Murphy sets 'major announcement' with laborers' union

@ByKristenMClark

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, plans to make a "major announcement" Friday morning in Pompano Beach with leaders of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA).

A media advisory from the campaign includes no details on the substance of the announcement, but it looks to be another endorsement for the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, who continues to rack up endorsements from the party establishment and key interest groups.

Murphy is running in a competitive primary against fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, who's drawing his support from progressives and grassroots donors. North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also seeking the Democratic nomination.