May 16, 2016

Alan Grayson calls Patrick Murphy 'a walking, talking crook' on CBS Miami



Hot off a combative interview with an MSNBC host on Saturday, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson had an interesting interview with a Miami news anchor on Sunday morning.

The Orlando congressman's appearance on CBS Miami's "Facing South Florida" was much more tame and wide-ranging, as host Jim DeFede interviewed Grayson about why he's running for U.S. Senate and the various policies he supports.

A few times during the discussion, Grayson slammed his primary opponent -- fellow U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

He accused Murphy of being part of those who have "fundamentally corrupted" the Democratic Party, citing Murphy's father's substantial financial contributions to Democrats over the years.

MORE: "The financial muscle behind Patrick Murphy’s Senate bid: Dad"

He also called Murphy a "walking, talking crook," because he owns $5 million in stock in his father's construction company, Coastal Construction, which has taken part in projects that benefit from the federal EB-5 visa program. In 2014, Murphy co-sponsored legislation to extend the EB-5 program.

The subject of a congressional ethics investigation into Grayson's family hedge fund also came up.

In contrast to the MSNBC appearance, Grayson kept his cool as DeFede questioned him about it. But he did offer this colorful soundbite:

Continue reading "Alan Grayson calls Patrick Murphy 'a walking, talking crook' on CBS Miami" »

May 13, 2016

Joe Biden: Patrick Murphy is a 'raw talent'


During his lunchtime visit to a soul-food restaurant in downtown Orlando on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden casually greeted adoring fans, while helping promote the U.S. Senate candidacy of Democrat Patrick Murphy.

Biden described the Jupiter congressman as "the real deal" and a "raw talent."

Speaking to reporters briefly, Biden addressed the contentious Democratic primary in which Murphy faces fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- whose Orlando-based district was just three miles to the east.

"It wasn't about Alan; it was about the caliber of this guy," Biden said. "We need people in the Senate who can bring people together."

(Grayson, known nationally as a progressive firebrand, isn't afraid to say bluntly how he feels about other politicians, even within his own party.)

Biden reflected on his own time in the U.S. Senate -- saying how getting to know colleagues across the aisle was more effective and made it "hard to demonize" opponents.

Watch his remarks below, and click here to read more of our coverage.

May 12, 2016

Joe Biden charms while campaigning for Patrick Murphy in Orlando

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ORLANDO -- Vice President Joe Biden charmed a crowded restaurant in downtown Orlando this morning, lending his political stardom once again to the U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Patrick Murphy.

As Biden entered to small cheers from an expectant audience, the ever-charismatic politician joked to the 75 people gathered at Chef Eddie's restaurant: "Look, I hope you're all eating because what I don't want to have happen is the waitresses (get) angry because they're not getting tips because I'm here!"

Much as he did at a Miami restaurant while campaigning for Murphy two months ago, Biden worked the room with magnetic energy. He shook hands, offered hugs, snapped selfies and greeted every stranger as if they were old friends.

Murphy, a two-term Democratic congressman from Jupiter, seemed to struggle for the spotlight. He often lingered in Biden's metaphorical shadow -- even helping to take a photo of Biden and some of his admirers at one point. But Murphy was also able to introduce himself and chat with some of the guests, at least a few of whom seemed to be friends or acquaintances of Murphy's.

Dolled up in suits and dresses, most of the crowd seemed to be invited guests -- not average diners who'd happened to stop by the restaurant for some of its casual soul-food. All but a handful waited with reporters for over an hour before Murphy and Biden arrived.

Continue reading "Joe Biden charms while campaigning for Patrick Murphy in Orlando" »

May 11, 2016

Joe Biden campaigning again for Patrick Murphy


For the second time this spring, Vice President Joe Biden is campaigning for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy in Florida.

But this time, it'll be on the turf of Murphy's Democratic opponent -- in Orlando.

Biden's official schedule for Thursday has him delivering remarks at 10 a.m. at an event for Murphy, which is being held "at a private residence."

After a speech in Tampa this morning, Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, came to Orlando this afternoon to attend the 2016 Invictus Games.

The Bidens are staying overnight in Orlando for the event with Murphy, before leaving Florida on Thursday afternoon to go to Wilmington, Delaware, according to the vice president's official schedule.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, is in a fierce primary contest with fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who lives in Orlando and whose congressional district represents part of the city. .

In late March, Biden headlined a luncheon fundraiser for Murphy in Miami-Dade County, after which the pair made a brief appearance at a restaurant in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

Biden's repeated presence in Florida is symbolic of both the significance of the U.S. Senate race here and the Democratic establishment's fervent support of Murphy over Grayson in the Aug. 30 primary.

The Senate seat being vacated by Republican Marco Rubio is seen as one of a handful of seats nationwide that could flip and, potentially, help Democrats win back control of the chamber.

Top Democrats -- including Biden, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- have lined up behind Murphy's campaign. The lop-sided affair that has become a bit of a flashpoint in the primary contest.

Some of those tensions boiled over on this afternoon, when Grayson -- who has garnered most of his support from progressive leaders and grassroots donors -- confronted Reid during a closed-door progressive caucus meeting in Washington, D.C.

Florida Senate candidate Carlos Beruff's misleading claim about Iran deal

Bradenton developer Carlos Beruff lobbed a bombshell against his Democratic opponents and the White House: President Barack Obama’s deal with Iran actually allows that country to build a nuclear weapon.  

The Manatee County Republican criticized the president’s negotiation skills and berated U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy for backing the deal. Grayson and Murphy are squaring off in the Democratic primary, while Beruff faces a packed GOP field.

"Both Congressman Grayson and Congressman Murphy supported President Obama’s disastrous deal, which allows Iran to produce a nuclear weapon," Beruff said in a May 5, 2016, news release.

Beruff’s argument gave us pause, since the idea of the Iran nuclear agreement was ostensibly made to prevent the country from building a nuke. When we rechecked the terms of the deal for this fact-check, we found that was still the case.

More here from PolitiFact Florida (fact-check written by Joshua Gillin and Louis Jacobson).

May 10, 2016

Payday lenders have given millions to Florida politicians

Payday lenders have donated about $2.5 million to Florida politicians and and both political parties in recent years, according to a new analysis by a liberal group.

Allied Progress has drawn attention to the issue of payday lending in Florida by attacking U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic national committee chair, and other politicians who have taken money from the industry.

The group gave the Miami Herald an advanced copy of its new report, “A Florida Plan: How Payday lenders bought Florida’s political establishment.” The report lists donations given to federal and state candidates as well as the state’s Republican and Democratic parties since 2009.

Overall, Republicans received $1.6 million and Democrats received about $890,000, while $29,000 went to independents. But the top individual recipients were South Florida Democrats.

Keep reading from the Miami Herald.

Will EPA force $31 million upgrade to a ditch as David Jolly says?

A voter at an Orlando debate asked U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Alan Grayson whether climate change presented the greatest threat the nation currently faces. That’s when Jolly steered the conversation into a ditch.

The Indian Shores Republican answered that "agents of terror" are the greatest threat against America, but the effects of climate change are real and will need to be addressed. He said he preferred tax credits and federal money for research instead of stricter environmental and energy regulations from Washington.

"What won't work is the president's Waters of the United States regulation that's going to cost Pinellas County, just one county, between $400 million and $2.5 billion," Jolly said on April 25, 2016. "It will cost them $31 million to fix a single ditch."

We wanted to know if there was a new regulation forcing Pinellas County to spend $31 million to fix a ditch. What we found out is that the price is an old estimate, and there's little consensus how the Environmental Protection Agency is actually changing the rules.

PolitiFact Florida has fact-checked a few claims by candidates related to EPA's water rule including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Sen Ted Cruz. See how PolitiFact Florida rated Jolly's claim.


May 04, 2016

Is U.S. one of three countries in world without paid vacation leave as Alan Grayson says?

American workers aren’t getting the compensation they deserve, in either time or money, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson said at a recent Orlando debate.

At a Senate campaign debate with U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, on April 25, 2016, Grayson said he supported a higher minimum wage. Providing more pay won’t hurt the businesses, he said, because other nations have higher wages with no ill effects.

Furthermore, many countries also guarantee paid time off and their economies are fine, Grayson said. But not the United States.

"There's only three countries in the entire world where there's no paid vacation by law, we happen to be one of them. The other two are in Africa," he said.

That stat stopped us cold, and not just because we’re overdue for a long weekend off. Could Grayson be right that only the United States is one of the only countries in the entire world that doesn’t grant a legal right to paid time off?

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found.


April 28, 2016

Three Floridians among Obama nominees to federal district bench


President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated U.S. magistrate judges in Jacksonville and Ocala and a prominent Tampa lawyer for federal district court seats, adding their names to a backlog of dozens of judicial picks the Republican-controlled Senate has failed to confirm.

Obama named Magistrate Judge Patricia D. Barksdale of Jacksonville and Tampa white-collar defense attorney William F. Jung to the Middle District of Florida, and he chose Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens for the Northern District of Florida.

"There is a judicial emergency in the Middle District of Florida right now," Sen. Bill Nelson said. "Sen. Rubio and I have conferred on these three nominees, and even in this highly partisan environment, I'm hopeful that we can get them approved quickly."

Aides to Rubio confirmed that the two senators had worked together in recommending the Florida nominees to Obama.

Rubio, however, declined to say whether he would push for his Senate Republican colleagues to confirm them. Republicans are refusing to hold hearings or to vote on Obama's nomination last month of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

With 85 federal district seats unfilled nationwide, Florida has three of 28 vacancies deemed "emergency" by the U.S. Judicial Conference, the policy-making body for federal courts overseen by the Supreme Court.

The emergency designation is based on a combination of the length of vacancy and how many cases are pending before a court.

Both seats that Obama moved to fill Thursday for the Middle District of Florida are among the 28 emergency vacancies, with one seat empty since June 30, 2015, and the second seat unfilled since August 1 of last year.

The Middle District of Florida had 9,401 cases in 2015, which is considered a heavy load. It stretches from south of Naples on the Gulf Coast to the Georgia border and includes Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando.

Obama also nominated five other district judges to seats in Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

"Throughout their careers, these nominees have displayed unwavering commitment to justice and integrity," Obama said of his eight choices for judicial promotion. "Their records are distinguished and impressive, and I am confident that they will serve the American people well from the United States District Court bench."

The Senate on April 11 unanimously confirmed Waverly Crenshaw Jr., an African-American lawyer from Nashville, Tenn., to a federal district judgeship.

The Senate confirmed just 17 of Obama's judicial nominees last year, the fewest since 1960.

Before becoming a U.S. magistrate judge in 2012, Lammens was a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville, the city's No. 2 attorney and a civil trial lawyer in the torts division of the U.S. Justice Department. He earned his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida.

A U.S. magistrate judge since 2013, Barksdale also previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville. She, too, has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida.

Jung is a founding partner of the Jung & Sisco law firm in Ocala, specializing in white-collar criminal defense. He was a federal prosecutor in Miami in the late 1980s and clerked before that for then-Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist. Jung received his law degree from the University of Illinois and his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University





Fact-checking Alan Grayson's claim about LeBron James' taxes

Not only has U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson endorsed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, he also has echoed one of the senator’s main platform planks that the rich should help shore up Social Security.

At a Senate campaign debate with U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, in Orlando on April 25, 2016, Grayson said the Social Security payroll tax cap on earnings needs to be lifted in order to make the program solvent. He used the mind-boggling salary of professional basketball superstar LeBron James to illustrate his point.

"Let's talk about LeBron James. Do you know when he stops paying his Social Security taxes? He stops paying his Social Security taxes at the beginning of the second quarter of the first game of the season," Grayson said. "Rest of the game, pays nothing. Rest of the 81 games of the season, pays nothing. The offseason, still pays nothing. That's ridiculous."

The Cleveland Cavaliers forward rakes in an average of $23.5 million per year as part of his current two-year contract, so it’s not like he’s going to depend on Social Security in his twilight years.

But is Grayson right that James is done paying into the program before halftime of the first game of the season? It’s not a slam dunk, but the Orlando Democrat does score points with this one.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.