June 29, 2016

Senate poll: Rubio clear GOP frontrunner but tied with Murphy in general election matchup


Another recent poll shows incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio as the clear Republican favorite in Florida's U.S. Senate race -- but he would have a battle on his hands against Democrat Patrick Murphy if the two faced off in the general election, the poll found.

The new statewide survey from News 13/Bay News 9 -- conducted June 25-27 -- found Rubio with 63 percent support in the Aug. 30 GOP primary, with "undecided" being a distant second at 13 percent. Manatee County home-builder Carlos Beruff got 11 percent, followed by relative unknowns Dwight Young at 10 percent and Ernie Rivera at 2 percent.

For those results, the TV stations polled 555 likely Republican voters. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent.

In the Democratic primary, the potential victor is not so decisive.

"Undecided" still leads the pack with 35 percent support -- as it has consistently for months while the Democratic contenders fight for prominence among primary voters.

But as is consistent with most other recent polls, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter holds the edge. He got 30 percent support compared 21 percent support for fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando, the poll found.

Among the remaining percent: Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith got 10 percent support, former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville got 3 percent and California businessman and former presidential hopeful "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando got 2 percent. Luster and De La Fuente joined the primary contest last week when they qualified for the ballot.

The stations surveyed 618 likely Democratic primary voters for those results, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The only general election match-up the stations polled was between Rubio and Murphy, who are viewed as the frontrunners in their respective primaries.

If the election were held this week, respondents would have made it a draw.

Both Rubio and Murphy polled with 43 percent support, while 8 percent said they were undecided and 7 percent would've picked another candidate.

The general election survey polled 1,678 likely November voters. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percent.

More detailed poll results here.

June 28, 2016

PolitiFact: Sen. Bill Nelson's Half True claim about Zika bill, birth control and Puerto Rico

Emergency money to block the spread of the Zika virus won’t be coming any time real soon. A $1.1 billion funding measure failed to win enough support for an up or down vote in the Senate.

The major stumbling point wasn’t the money (though Democrats wanted additional funding). Rather, it was the strings that were attached to the measure as it relates to combatting the virus in Puerto Rico.

After the House passed the bill on a largely party line vote, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., berated it.

""The House Zika bill is a disaster," Nelson said June 24, 2016. "Not only does it take $500 million in health care funding away from Puerto Rico, it limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects. This is not a serious solution."

We wondered about Nelson’s claim that the House Zika bill "limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus," in Puerto Rico.

Keep reading Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

Florida police union endorses Patrick Murphy


The Florida Police Benevolent Association has endorsed Democrat Patrick Murphy in Florida's U.S. Senate race this year, Murphy's campaign said today.

It adds to a growing list of endorsements from unions and other party establishment organizations who have rallied behind Murphy ahead of the August Democratic primary.

"The Florida PBA is proud to endorse Patrick Murphy because we know that he will stand with our police officers and first-responders in the U.S. Senate," PBA President John Rivera said in a statement provided by Murphy's campaign. "Patrick is the leader that our officers need to ensure that they can continue keeping our communities safe. As the organization that advocates for Florida’s police officers, we trust Patrick Murphy to advocate for us.”

In the Aug. 30 party primary, Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, faces fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando; Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith; former assistant U.S. attorney Reginald Luster of Jacksonville; and California businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, of Orlando.

Republicans attack Patrick Murphy's 'career built on lies'


Republican groups continue to hammer home revelations of résumé embellishment by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a new TV ad today condemning what it described as Murphy's "career built on lies."

The ad will run over the next two weeks in the Washington, D.C. area, the NRSC said. The group is spending about $45,000 on the airtime, a spokesman said.

Information in the 60-second spot draws largely from a scrutinizing TV investigation that aired last week by Jim DeFede of Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4 Miami. DeFede's two-part report highlighted the facts that -- despite Murphy's and his campaign's claims -- Murphy never "worked" as a certified public account and he wasn't actually a "small business owner."

The NRSC's ad also includes video of Murphy responding to questions by the Herald/Times about the documented discrepancies in his credentials that the Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida previously uncovered.

"What is Privileged Patrick Murphy hiding?" a narrator asks, using the nickname Republican critics use for the Jupiter congressman.

Watch the ad here:

Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement this morning: "The NRSC is welcome to waste their money in D.C., because Patrick is fighting for Florida."

The statement included a lengthy "fact check," seeking to debunk both the ad and, again, the CBS Miami report.

Murphy's campaign blasted the station's investigation as "deeply false" and "misleading" and, as part of its damage control, claimed that the station made several corrections.

However, while some wording was changed slightly from what was originally published in the online, written version, no official corrections have been made by the station, and CBS Miami has said it stands by its reporting.

The two key conclusions of DeFede's reporting -- that Murphy never "worked" as a CPA and isn't a "small business owner" -- are true.

Murphy was -- and is -- licensed in Colorado as a CPA, not in Florida. Florida requires a license here to perform any work associated with being a CPA, such as "performing audits" or "representing oneself as a CPA."

And there is no conclusive evidence that shows Murphy "owned" Coastal Environmental Services, a subsidiary of his father's Coastal Construction company. The evidence to which the Murphy campaign links in an effort to prove Murphy owned the business is the company's incorporation documents from 2010. But those were signed by Coastal Construction executive Dan Whiteman and it lists Murphy third on a list of company directors behind Whiteman and his father, Tom Murphy Jr.

Last week, a new super PAC supporting Rubio also released an ad online to attack Murphy using the CBS Miami report.

This post has been updated.

June 24, 2016

Column: The overhyping of underwhelming Patrick Murphy


From Tampa Bay Times political editor @adamsmithtimes:

For at least a year, the conventional wisdom has echoed from Democrats and Republican alike in Washington, Tallahassee, and across Florida: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is the future of the Democratic Party, a powerhouse statewide candidate and most likely Florida's next U.S. Senator.

Today, two months before Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's preferred candidate faces Alan Grayson in a primary and four and half before the general election, we're struggling to think of when Florida last saw a candidate who proved as overrated and over-hyped as Murphy.

The Times/Herald and others in recent weeks have shown the pattern with the 33-year-old congressman from Palm Beach County: He appeared to be a serial exaggerator of his accomplishments, from inflating the scope of his work on Gulf clean-up after the BP oil spill, to falsely claiming to have earned dual college degrees, to overstating his work as a CPA. This week a Miami TV station aired a two-part investigative series that portrayed Murphy as an unaccomplished, chronic embellisher.

"Murphy’s rise is extraordinary because of how little he seems to have accomplished to get here," concluded CBS4 News. "...Murphy has in some cases exaggerated his experience and in other instances made claims that were misleading or outright false. For instance, he has never worked a day in his life as a Certified Public Accountant. And he was never a small business owner."

Murphy's campaign has attacked the report as unfair and inaccurate. He was a CPA, even if he was never licensed by Florida or worked as long as he seemed to imply. And he did have a small business, even if his wealthy father may have bought it for him and it didn't actually do much cleanup work.

But what's already certain is that the Democratic Party establishment prematurely planned a coronation for a candidate about to be mauled and carved up by Republicans. "Patrick Murphy - a career built on lies," is how the National Republican Senatorial Committee has started describing him.

Murphy is telegenic, moderate, and as a congressman largely uncontroversial. Mainly, though, what has set him apart and drew the enthusiasm of the likes of Harry Reid is money. Murphy’s father in the construction business has been willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to help get him elected, so the party establishment saw little reason to dig below the surface of Murphy’s image.

Political analysts have consistently deemed Florida's U.S. Senate race as one of a handful of toss-up contests across the country. After Rubio announced his reelection campaign last week, that rating will likely shift to GOP-leaning. 

Given the way Murphy has withered under scrutiny in recent weeks, we're wondering if most of the drama will be in the primary and not the general. Rubio may face more difficulty winning the nomination against businessman Carlos Beruff than beating either Grayson, notoriously obnoxious and mired in pending ethics probes - or Murphy, who increasingly looks like an emperor with no clothes.


Pam Keith qualifies for Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Florida


The first major party candidate to launch a 2016 campaign for Florida's U.S. Senate seat was among the last to get on the ballot ahead of Friday's noon deadline.

Labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith, a Democrat from Miami, dropped off her candidate oath and her $10,440 check at about 10:15 this morning at the Florida Division of Elections' office in Tallahassee.

Keith first launched her U.S. Senate campaign in November 2014 and has been campaigning full-time across the state. But she's struggled to gain name recognition and campaign funds in the Democratic primary against U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, and Alan Grayson, of Orlando.

The party establishment -- and its donors -- strongly backs Murphy, and Grayson has support among progressives in the party. Keith is painting herself as an alternative who, she says, can "energize voters to the polls" and offer something "new, outsider, fresh, solutions-oriented" that voters in this election cycle want.

"Recent revelations have shown some of the very significant weaknesses in my opponents," Keith said Friday, after she filed her paperwork. "This season, more than any, voters are really looking for substance, authenticity and relatability -- and I think, by far, I'm the candidate who satisfies those needs the best."

Both Murphy and Grayson have vulnerabilities.

Grayson has an active congressional ethics investigation against him into once-offshore hedge funds he operated out of the Cayman Islands while in office. There's been no new developments on that ethics case since early April, when the Office of Congressional Ethics released its findings that Grayson might have violated ethics rules and federal laws. It's up to the U.S. House Ethics Committee to continue investigating, if it chooses to.

Meanwhile, Murphy -- who is viewed as the frontrunner in the primary -- has been plagued for the past month by media investigations exposing embellishments and contradictions in his professional and academic credentials. That was capped off most recently by a blistering two-part report this week by Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4 Miami, which garnered national attention. The CBS Miami investigation built off and echoed previous reporting by the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida.

Some questioned whether Keith would even qualify for the race this week, because she had just $13,400 in the bank, as of March 31 (the end of the last campaign finance period).

"I have a mission and a purpose, and I stay focused on what I'm doing," Keith said. "Naysayers exist in every industry and in every endeavor, so you just learn overtime that that's just not something you need to pay much attention to."

Also this week, two other Democrats joined the primary race and qualified for the ballot: Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and California businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando.

*This post has been updated.

June 23, 2016

CBS Miami, part 2: More questions raised about Patrick Murphy's environmental company


After sending shockwaves through Florida and national political circles with its first report on Wednesday, Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS-4 Miami aired Thursday evening the second installment in its two-part investigation probing deeper into Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's résumé inflation.

The 4-minute report on Thursday focused on the oil-skimming boats that Coastal Environmental Services -- under Murphy's direction -- owned, developed and operated, which the company promised would "leave conventional skimming vehicles in its wake."

Murphy was vice president of the company for no more than six months after the BP oil spill in 2010 and touts the experience repeatedly on the campaign trail as part of what makes him a "small business owner." (Whether Murphy actually owned the company -- a subsidiary of his dad's construction company -- is unproven, despite his campaign's assertions to the contrary.)

CBS Miami investigative reporter Jim DeFede found that the skimmers Coastal owned weren't actually "tested and proven" the way the company claimed and that other marketing materials it distributed in 2010 inflated the company's experience.

Here is the second part of the investigative report:

The first installment, which aired Wednesday evening, sent the Jupiter congressman's campaign into damage-control and spin mode well into the night and much of Thursday. The Murphy campaign released Thursday morning a detailed point-by-point rebuttal, alleging the CBS Miami report was "deeply false" and "misleading."

While CBS Miami did clarify small aspects of its initial report, the key conclusions of the story are true -- that Murphy never "worked" as a CPA and isn't a "small business owner."

The CBS Miami investigation built off and echoed previous reporting by the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida, which in recent weeks exposed embellishments and contradictions in Murphy's academic and professional credentials -- including his time at Coastal Environmental and as a CPA.

Republicans quickly capitalized on Wednesday's TV story to slam Murphy, including a new pro-Marco Rubio super PAC -- which released an attack ad Thursday afternoon using footage from the first report.

Read and watch Part 1 of the CBS Miami report here and Part 2 of the investigation here.

Patrick Murphy's campaign responds, says CBS Miami story 'deeply false' - but is it?


MurphyThe morning after Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 Miami aired part one of its blistering investigation into Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's touted career accomplishments, the Jupiter congressman's campaign responded in force by accusing the station of airing a "deeply false" and "misleading" story.

In a lengthy "setting the record straight" email to reporters this morning, Murphy's campaign cited about a dozen aspects of CBS Miami's story, which it says are "completely inaccurate." The campaign said "overnight, there were already seven corrections" to the story, reported by Jim DeFede.

However, the online written version of the two-part report -- airing last night and tonight -- denotes no such corrections. It does appear, though, some wording has been clarified from what was first posted Wednesday night.

"CBS Miami's sensational claim is completely false," Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said in the statement. "While we know dozens of hopeful Republican staffers will be disappointed, CBS Miami's report shows that Patrick Murphy owned an environmental clean-up company, owned skimming vessels, and had contracts to clean up oil."

"In an effort to be as transparent as possible with proprietary corporate records, our campaign shared over 70 pages of corporate records with CBS Miami and submitted over 2,000 words of answers to questions," Wolf said. "Almost none of the information we provided is reflected in CBS Miami's deeply inaccurate reporting, which invents a story about Patrick's life that is unrecognizable to anyone who knows him."

However, some of the points that Murphy's campaign asserts today are false actually aren't -- including the two key conclusions of DeFede's reporting: That Murphy never "worked" as a CPA and isn't a "small business owner."

And much of what CBS Miami reported Wednesday wasn't new. It built off previous reporting by the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida, and advanced the probe with new revelations about the nuances of Murphy's narrative.

It's become routine for Murphy and his campaign to dismiss questions and media reports, which have highlighted embellishments and contradictions in the congressman's academic and professional credentials.

Among the points Murphy's campaign says are inaccurate in the CBS Miami story:

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy's campaign responds, says CBS Miami story 'deeply false' - but is it?" »

GOP super PAC accuses Patrick Murphy, Charlie Crist of 'straw donation scheme'


A conservative super PAC aligned with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission accusing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy of orchestrating a "straw donation scheme."

The complaint from the Senate Leadership Fund also names former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, because similar donors gave to Crist's 2010 U.S. Senate campaign as gave to Murphy's first U.S. House race in 2012.

The super PAC bases its accusation on connections that several joint donors to Crist and Murphy have in common with a friend and former classmate of Murphy's: Ibrahim Al-Rashid.

The super PAC has attacked Murphy for weeks over donations he's gotten from the wealthy Al-Rashid, who in 2014 pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge. The revelation of that criminal case prompted Murphy, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and others -- including former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami -- to return or donate substantial contributions they'd gotten from the controversial donor.

The Senate Leadership Fund is milking that narrative further by now alleging Murphy, Crist and a dozen of their donors "appear to be part of a highly suspicious network of contributors" to the two politicians. The super PAC alleges that Al-Rashid used several relatives and friends as "straw donors" to circumvent federal campaign contribution limits in giving donations to Murphy's and Crist's campaigns.

Murphy's campaign said the allegations are "totally false."

Continue reading "GOP super PAC accuses Patrick Murphy, Charlie Crist of 'straw donation scheme'" »

June 22, 2016

CBS Miami: Patrick Murphy 'made claims that were misleading or outright false'


UPDATE: 12:40 p.m. June 23 -- Murphy's campaign has disputed several points raised in the CBS Miami report, including some referenced below -- that the campaign provided no contracts to the station and that Murphy had to take his CPA exam nine times. As DeFede mentioned in his report, he did see two contracts, and CBS Miami later amended its online story to clarify that Murphy took parts of his CPA exam nine times, not the full exam nine times. Full details here on the Murphy's rebuttal, which was released the morning after the first of CBS Miami's two-part investigation aired.

ORIGINAL STORY: 9:15 p.m. June 22 --

For several weeks now, various discrepancies and embellishments in Patrick Murphy's resume have come to light, as the Democratic congressman from Jupiter has become more and more of a front-runner in the race for Florida's U.S. Senate seat.

On Wednesday, Jim DeFede of Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 Miami exposed a few more exaggerations in the first of a two-part scathing report into Murphy's professional credentials.

"For Murphy, the newfound role as the Democrat’s most eligible candidate is extraordinary; and not just because he’s only been a Democrat since 2011," DeFede reports. "Murphy’s rise is extraordinary because of how little he seems to have accomplished to get here."

Building off previous reporting by the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida, DeFede focused on Murphy's repeated claims that his experience as a certified public accountant and "small business owner" help make him qualified for higher office.

After the CBS Miami investigation, DeFede concluded Murphy "has, in some cases, exaggerated his experience and, in other instances, made claims that were misleading or outright false."

Among those:

-- Murphy has never been a licensed CPA in Florida; he's registered in Colorado and never practiced as a CPA in Florida. This, the Herald/Times has reported -- but DeFede found that Murphy had to take the exam nine times before he got licensed. And without a valid CPA license in Florida, Murphy could not have actually signed off on any audit work he did while at Deloitte & Touche, one expert told DeFede.

-- Murphy's claim that he was tasked with looking for "inefficiencies, waste and fraud" is also misleading, according to experts DeFede talked to. Murphy's title on his application for a CPA license listed him as "audit assistant," an entry-level position one professor told DeFede "is kind of like a gopher."

-- As to Murphy's claims that he was a "small business owner," that's not an accurate claim, either. He was vice president of Coastal Environmental Services, but that was a subsidiary of his father's Coastal Construction Company -- not Murphy's own business and certainly not one he started from scratch. DeFede found that "Murphy, with his father's help, bought a business that was already doing business here in the Gulf of Mexico."

-- Murphy's description of how he "led cleanup efforts" after the BP oil spill continues to evolve. First, from what he told the Times then the Herald/Times in May, and now to what he and his campaign told DeFede and CBS Miami. Most notably, DeFede found Coastal Environmental was "not awarded a single contract for clean-up in the Gulf."

-- DeFede said Murphy's campaign told him it would turn over financial records to prove that Coastal Environmental was successful and "turned a modest profit," but they didn't actually provide a financial statement. And of the documents CBS Miami could review, the Murphy campaign made the station agree not to report any dollar amounts or company names, DeFede said.

-- The four oil skimmers that Coastal Environmental bought in 2010, briefly used and still own now sit in storage in Louisiana and Alabama, DeFede reported, and the company is losing money every month because of it, he said. 

When faced in the past with questions about the discrepancies in his academic and professional resumes, Murphy has been dismissive. (Watch here.)

Watch Part 1 of DeFede's report above. Part 2 airs Thursday evening. Or you can read his full report online now.

*This post has been corrected to indicate the oil skimmers were briefly used.