November 03, 2016

For Patrick Murphy and friend Ibrahim Al-Rashid, political giving went together

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via @learyreports

Years before Ibrahim Al-Rashid began causing problems for his friend Patrick Murphy, they were in synch down to their political giving.

Beginning with matching $2,300 contributions to Mitt Romney on the same day in 2007, Murphy and Al-Rashid, who met years earlier at prep school, made a series of corresponding donations to politicians just as Murphy was trying to become one.

On March 18, 2010, for example, Al-Rashid and Murphy maxed out to Charlie Crist’s U.S. Senate campaign, giving two donations each of $2,400, maxing out. Family members of Al-Rashid’s did the same.

Other Murphy-Al-Rashid donations came within a few days of each other.

The contributions help fill out the picture of Murphy’s connections and access to political money that has propelled his career. An unknown in politics, the early donations likely helped gain him access to key figures, from Crist to Bill Nelson.

Al-Rashid was back in the news on Wednesday when The Hill reported that the FBI is looking at an alleged illegal straw donor scheme. Murphy sought to discredit the report Wednesday. “I haven’t been contacted, nor has my team,” the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate said.

“Please point out one sentence in my story that Patrick Murphy disputes. Just one,” shot back the reporter.

Not in dispute: Murphy’s ties to Al-Rashid, son of a Saudi billionaire. As the Palm Beach Post noted Wednesday, Al-Rashid has given nearly $400,000 to Murphy’s campaigns over the years and to outside groups supporting him.

Murphy met Al-Rashid while attending the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. They both attended University of Miami.

Continue reading "For Patrick Murphy and friend Ibrahim Al-Rashid, political giving went together" »

November 02, 2016

Report: FBI investigating Murphy donor accused of coordinating donor scheme

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From @jonathanvswan at The Hill:

The FBI is investigating an alleged illegal donation scheme involving a wealthy Saudi family that supports Democratic Florida Senate candidate Patrick Murphy.

The Hill has found no evidence that Murphy himself was involved in, or even aware of, the alleged scheme. The Murphy campaign declined to say whether the candidate is aware of the FBI probe, but the campaign said neither Murphy nor his campaign staff is being investigated.

The Murphy campaign noted that a conservative super PAC earlier this year filed a complaint on the issue that the FBI is looking into.

“This complaint was written by a Republican super PAC willing to say anything to elect Marco Rubio,” said Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp. “Neither Patrick nor any current or past employees have ever been contacted regarding this matter, and we are confident an examination of the facts will result in its dismissal.”

...

The allegation — originally submitted by a Republican super PAC run by a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — is that Murphy’s high school friend and major political donor, Ibrahim Al-Rashid, coordinated a “straw donor” scheme to boost Murphy.

Read The Hill's full story here.

Here is more details on that super PAC complaint. The Senate Leadership Fund -- which has aggressively targeted Murphy this cycle -- filed it in June. The Hill reported in September that the Federal Election Commission was looking into it.

Over the summer -- after the super PAC's complaint was filed -- Murphy's campaign, at one point, averaged $1,288 in legal expenses day over a six-week period.

Photo credit: AP

November 01, 2016

Patrick Murphy marches with Rep. John Lewis to promote early voting in Daytona

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@ByKristenMClark

As part of the Democrats' push to promote early voting among African Americans in Florida, U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy joined civil rights leader and Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Tuesday morning for a march from Bethune-Cookman University to a nearby early voting site in Daytona.

Murphy and Lewis were accompanied by students from the historically black university and actress Aja Naomi King, best known for her roles in "The Birth of a Nation" and ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder." King and Lewis are in Florida this week as surrogates for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

"This is one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes and it so important that all Floridians make their voices heard at the ballot box," Murphy said in a campaign statement.

According to the Clinton campaign, King is scheduled to participate in similar early voting events at the University of Florida in Gainesville this afternoon and at both Florida A&M University and Florida State University in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning.

Photo credit: Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign

Patrick Murphy to attend Hillary Clinton rallies in Sanford, Fort Lauderdale

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@ByKristenMClark

In the final week before Election Day, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy plans to stay busy on the campaign trail appearing with high-profile Democrats campaigning in Florida, either for themselves or as surrogates.

Murphy on Tuesday, for instance, will be with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at her early voting events in Sanford and Fort Lauderdale.

Murphy is scheduled to address the crowd at both evening events and travel with Clinton enroute from Sanford to Fort Lauderdale, Murphy's campaign said.

Murphy, who has struggled with low statewide name recognition, has boosted his profile somewhat in the past few weeks since he first started attending and speaking at Clinton rallies, mostly in South Florida. He's benefited from prominent mentions by Clinton and President Barack Obama and other top Democrats, who simultaneously harshly criticized Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Murphy spoke at four Clinton rallies in October: twice with Clinton herself, first in Miami and then Coconut Creek, and twice with Obama, first in Miami Gardens and then Friday in Orlando.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

October 31, 2016

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

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