December 30, 2015

After two months, Alan Grayson's U.S. Senate campaign fixes botched disclosure



U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has fixed his most recent campaign finance disclosure with the Federal Elections Commission almost two months after his Senate campaign incorrectly reported 2,300 donations from a Chicago retiree who hadn't actually contributed a dime to his bid for higher office.

Grayson's campaign in October told the Herald/Times a software glitch was the reason Jacqueline Kirley's name was associated with more than $37,000 in contributions to the Orlando Democrat and that the campaign had already started working to fix its report for the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

But the error took two months to resolve. Campaign staff wanted to be doubly sure there were no further problems that would need correcting, Grayson spokesman David Damron said this week.

"We had to have the software company fix the initial glitch, and they corrected the errors, and then we checked the report over a few times to assure accurate final numbers," Damron said.

FEC records show the amended report was sent by overnight delivery on Dec. 17, a day after a Herald/Times reporter inquired with the campaign about the status of the corrected disclosure.

Grayson is running against fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith in the contentious Democratic primary for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. Four Republicans are running in the GOP primary.

Continue reading "After two months, Alan Grayson's U.S. Senate campaign fixes botched disclosure" »

December 21, 2015

Patrick Murphy asks for donations in response to attack ad's 'lies'



Democrat Patrick Murphy's campaign for U.S. Senate spent the weekend seeking donations from the Jupiter congressman's supporters in order to counter an attack ad, which Better Florida Alliance launched against him on Friday.

In an "urgent" message Saturday morning, Murphy's campaign manager Josh Wolf fired off a plea to Murphy's fundraising list, blasting the conservative advocacy group as a "shady SuperPAC" and calling their ad "a complete distortion of Patrick's record."

The ad was critical of a vote Murphy cast related to taking military action against ISIS, as well as his support for gun-control reforms. As of noon Monday, it had 171 views on YouTube. Better Florida Alliance said it planned to target the ad across social media over the holidays.

Murphy is running in the contentious 2016 Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio.

"They think that if they get their smears out now, voters will believe them. They are right," Wolf said in the fundraising email. "I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this attack."

"We have to fight back every time an attack like this is launched," Wolf added. "We cannot let distortions about Patrick’s record go uncorrected."

The campaign sought to raise $10,000 to create a "Rapid Response Fund," the email said. As of 7:30 Sunday, the campaign said in a follow-up fundraising email to supporters that it was still $1,500 away from its goal.

"With recent polls showing a huge number of voters undecided in this race, we cannot risk letting these lies take root," the second email said.

Murphy's campaign declined to comment last week in response to the ad and declined to tell the Herald/Times on Monday whether it had reached its fundraising goal.

Photo credit: Walter Michot/ Miami Herald

December 18, 2015

Conservative ad: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy 'clueless' on ISIS



A conservative advocacy group has gone on the offensive against U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, calling the Democratic congressman from Jupiter "clueless" in the fight against ISIS.

In a new digital ad campaign targeting "key Florida markets," the Better Florida Alliance attacks Murphy for supporting gun-control reforms -- specifically in the wake of the San Bernardino attack -- and for his vote in June in favor of pulling troops out of Iraq and Syria unless there was a congressional authorization for using military force.

The group calls on Floridians to tell Murphy to "stop attacking law-abiding Americans and start fighting ISIS terrorists instead."

“We’re in a war against ISIS terrorists, but Patrick Murphy wants to give them jobs while taking guns from Americans,” spokesman Brian Burgess said. “This isn’t leadership; it’s liberal capitulation in the face of Islamist radicals who want to murder as many Americans as possible. Florida deserves better leadership.”

Burgess said the ad will run over the holiday break only online and is being targeted across social media. He did not say how much the group is spending on it.

Murphy is running in a contentious 2016 Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio.

The full ad is here:


Image credit: YouTube

December 16, 2015

Grayson hires new staff to recharge U.S. Senate campaign



U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has hired new top-level staff for his U.S. Senate bid, replenishing his campaign's ranks following the departure of high-profile aides in recent weeks.

"As we move into the next phase of the campaign, we are re-tooling and, as always, aggressively running to win," the campaign said in a statement today, confirming the two new hires to the Herald/Times.

Among them is a familiar face from Grayson's congressional office: David Damron. Damron had been Grayson's press secretary but is now taking over press operations for his boss' Senate bid. Damron also worked on Grayson's 2014 re-election campaign and, before that, was a reporter covering politics in Florida for nearly two decades. 

The campaign also hired as political director Mario Piscatella, who was formerly the executive director of the Florida Young Democrats and has worked on a variety of campaigns throughout the country.

"As voters start to pay more attention to this race, we will continue to build up our winning team," Grayson's campaign said.

Two weeks ago, Grayson's campaign manager Doug Dodson left, and senior adviser and spokesman Kevin Franck's last day was Dec. 15. Deputy campaign manager David Keith left the campaign’s day-to-day operations earlier this fall but was to remain as an informal adviser. The departures were all mutual, the campaign said.

But critics have said those exits indicated growing turmoil in Grayson's camp, which is also grappling with sluggish fundraising and a congressional ethics investigation into the congressman's hedge funds. Grayson's campaign had shrugged off those notions, saying the staffing changes were "normal in the course of a campaign."

Grayson -- an unabashed progressive known for never mincing words -- is in the midst of a contentious primary battle with fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. Murphy has support from the party establishment and, as of October, had $3.5 million in his campaign warchest, compared to Grayson's $250,000.

Democrat Pam Keith, a North Palm Beach attorney, is also running in the August primary.

Four candidates are running on the Republican side: 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: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, R-Orlando, speaks during the 2015 AP Florida Legislative Planning Session for the year 2016, in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, October 14, 2015. Walter Michot / Miami Herald

December 09, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson push for opposing bills on H1-B foreign worker visas

via @learyreports

Following controversy over 250 Disney workers laid off in favor of foreign workers, Sen. Bill Nelson wants to slash the number of specialized work visas.

The Florida Democrat produced the legislation with an unlikely ally, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an immigration hardliner. And their bill opposes an initiative co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio that triples the number of current H-1B visas given annually - an issue that has come up in the presidential race.

"By cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally-qualified U.S. workers," Nelson said.

The "Protecting American Jobs Act" would cut the number of H-1B visas by 15,000. It calls on the Department of Homeland Security to allocate the remaining 70,000 visas in a way that minimizes the potential for companies to seek cheap foreign labor.

Disney sparked outrage when 250 workers in Orlando were laid off in late 2014 and replaced with workers hired by an outsourcing company based in India. The stunned workers had to train their replacements.

Continue reading "Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson push for opposing bills on H1-B foreign worker visas" »

December 08, 2015

Alan Grayson says Ted Cruz is not an American. Pants on Fire!

If Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wins the Republican presidential nomination, don’t expect Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., to send flowers.

Grayson, a U.S. Senate candidate, has threatened to file a lawsuit the minute Cruz’s nomination is confirmed, saying Cruz can’t hold the office of president because he’s not an American.  

Here’s the key exchange on Nov. 25, 2015, about Cruz between Grayson and Fox Radio host Alan Colmes.

Grayson: "Technically, he’s not even an American."

Colmes: "Well, his mother was born here, so I guess like Obama, though it’s interesting to me that the people who had a problem with Obama’s birth certificate don’t have a problem with Ted Cruz, who literally was born in another country and renounced his Canadian citizenry."

Grayson: "I don’t know. The Constitution says natural-born Americans, so now we’re counting Canadians as natural-born Americans? How does that work? I’m waiting for the moment that he gets the nomination and then I will file that beautiful lawsuit saying that he’s unqualified for the job because he’s ineligible."

Colmes: "So you’re saying should he get the nomination, Alan Grayson will file a lawsuit against his candidacy?"

Grayson: "Absolutely! Call me crazy, but I think the president of America should be an American."

Well, congressman, Cruz is an American by any definition. He travels on a U.S. passport. He's a member of the U.S. Senate, which requires him to be a citizen for nine years. There is no gray area on whether he is an American.

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

November 25, 2015

Grayson, Murphy are thankful for... your campaign donations


Not even national holidays are immune from being politicized.

In the run-up to Thanksgiving, the two leading candidates battling for the Democratic primary in Florida's U.S. Senate race -- U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter -- have both sent out fundraising emails to their supporters asking for donations of "$3 or more" because of the holiday.

Grayson's email on Tuesday, suiting his fiery, sometimes-combative personality, offers supporters the chance to "win a call from me to your most conservative relative on Thanksgiving."

"You know that Republican in your family who always tries to get into a political debate with you over Thanksgiving dinner? This year, they can argue with me instead," Grayson writes.

Meanwhile, this morning, Murphy's finance director released a fundraising pitch for Murphy -- intentionally or not, countering Grayson -- and pledging that "Thursday is off-limits" and that he has a "strict no-politics-on-Thanksgiving policy."

So instead, Murphy's campaign is asking his supporters to donate the day before -- so as not to infringe on the sanctity of the holiday, of course.

November 12, 2015

AFSCME union endorses Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has picked up another high-profile endorsement: the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, announced the union's support this afternoon in a conference call with reporters.

AFSCME Florida Executive Director Andy Madtes said the union's 15,000 members "just felt that Murphy was the best choice for us and our members" and that they plan to mobilize to help Murphy's campaign. Murphy will also have the backing of AFSCME International and its 1.6 million members nationwide.

Madtes said the union vetted Murphy and fellow Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson over the summer on issues such as workers' rights and income inequality.

Madtes said AFSCME's endorsement of Murphy is "not a reflection on anything negative," in regards to Grayson. He said the members want a candidate who will fight for workers in Washington, D.C., and it was a call of "who could do it best."

It's the latest in a growing list of endorsements Murphy has picked up in his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. While Murphy has poised himself to be the Democratic establishment's favorite, Grayson is garnering support from grassroots donors and progressives.

Less than two weeks ago, Murphy also heralded the endorsement of the Florida Teamsters and three national Democrats during the state party's annual convention at Walt Disney World.

North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith is also running in next summer's Democratic primary.

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: Walter Michot / Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times

November 05, 2015

Alan Grayson: Patrick Murphy should return donations from Dade Medical College CEO


The controversy of the now-shuttered Dade Medical College and its embattled CEO has seeped into Florida's heated Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, is calling on his opponent -- U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter -- to return campaign contributions he'd received from the school's majority owner, Ernesto Perez and his wife, Sylvia.

Ernesto Perez was arrested this week and is facing charges of bundling illegal campaign contributions. The school abruptly closed Friday, amid heightened federal scrutiny and mounting debts.

"How many students in Patrick Murphy's district are wondering what happened to their tuition and what will become of their future?" Grayson said in a campaign statement. "Patrick Murphy gobbled up dirty money from a corrupt college and he apparently has no concern about the disaster it left behind."

Dade Medical College had six campuses, stretching from Homestead to Jacksonville, including one in West Palm Beach (near Murphy's Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast district).

Murphy's campaign declined to comment on Grayson's remarks or the donations Murphy received from Perez.

Perez developed relationships with politicians at all levels of government, so campaign contributions were not at all an uncommon occurrence for him.

Federal Election Commission records show Perez gave Murphy's 2012 re-election campaign $1,000, and his wife, Sylvia, gave $5,400 -- the maximum -- in 2013 for Murphy's 2014 re-election bid.

Those contributions are among tens of thousands of dollars in donations the couple has given over the years to federal candidates on both sides of the aisle. The list includes hefty donations to several other prominent Florida Democrats, such as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, of West Palm Beach, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston, who's also the Democratic National Committee chairwoman.

November 04, 2015

PHOTOS: Ernesto Perez and his political friends

Cantor and mayor



Before his for-profit college suddenly collapsed on Friday, and before he was arrested for allegedly illegal campaign contributions on Tuesday, Dade Medical College owner Ernesto Perez was the king of an educational empire. Perez earned $431,999 a year, put his parents and wife on the company payroll, and he contributed heavily to political campaigns.

Perez enjoyed access to local, state, and federal politicians — a U.S. Senator from Colorado, the mayors of Miami and Homestead, and lots of state lawmakers. Here are photographs of some of the many politicians who crossed paths with Dade Medical College. The photos demonstrate the enormous level of Perez’s political reach.

See more photos here