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?

UPDATE: Our partners at Politifact looked deeper into the conclusions of the WFOR-CBS 4 Miami investigation after conservatives used the findings for an attack ad against Murphy. Murphy's campaign provided Politifact information that the campaign had not shared before. Politifact concluded: "Murphy’s description of his past employment is based on actual circumstances, but at times he omits a full explanation." Read their full analysis here.



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.

U.S. Senate poll: Rubio clear favorite in primary, Democrats largely undecided


New internal poll results released this afternoon by a Republican super PAC show that almost two-thirds of Democrats remain undecided in that party's primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race, but incumbent Marco Rubio is -- unexpectedly -- an instant front-runner in the dwindling GOP field.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which is affiliated with Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC, commissioned polls in both primaries earlier this week -- before Rubio made his announcement Wednesday morning that he'd seek re-election.

The automated telephone surveys were conducted June 19-20 by Pop Polling.

Out of 530 registered Democrats surveyed, 62 percent said they were still undecided in the August primary contest, according to the polling memo. Among those who weren't, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, led U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, 19 percent to 15 percent. Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith had 5 percent support.

The poll of the Democratic field had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

On the Republican side, only three candidates' names were included in the survey: Rubio, Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox. (Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra Beach, were not included in the poll; although, they didn't drop out of the race until earlier today after Rubio announced his decision.)

Rubio earned 57 percent support among the 487 registered Republicans surveyed, according to the polling memo. Beruff got 5 percent support and Wilcox got 4 percent support, while 34 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

The Republican survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Although the polls were from a partisan source, the strength of Rubio's candidacy reflected in the Senate Leadership Fund's results somewhat echo what the latest Quinnipiac University poll of the race showed when it was released early this morning.

Rubio fared well in both -- but the two polls can't be compared because the Q poll didn't survey each party primary. Rather, it looked at potential head-to-head general election match-ups in November. It signaled that Republicans' best shot to win the election would be with Rubio.

The Senate Leadership Fund's poll did not survey head-to-head general election possibilities, but the leader of the super PAC expressed confidence based on both the Q poll and its own internal polling.

"These numbers confirm that Marco Rubio is the Democrats’ worst nightmare in their dream of putting this Florida Senate seat in Hillary Clinton’s pocket," said Steven Law, former chief of staff to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and president of Senate Leadership Fund. "Not only is Rubio a clear favorite in the Republican primary, but the Democrats' primary is a dogfight between two scandal-tainted politicians, the resume-puffing Patrick Murphy and the unethical hedge fund manager Alan Grayson."

Both Grayson and Murphy have said they welcome Rubio's entry into the race; they're eager to take him on and confident in their prospects.

Florida's U.S. Senate race will be a grueling fight in the months ahead, because the seat could decide which party controls the Senate in 2017. The party primaries are Aug. 30.

PolitiFact Florida: Full Flop for Marco Rubio after decision to run


"In November of next year, I will either be the president of the United States or a private citizen again, because I have a sense of urgency."

-- March Rubio, Oct. 20, 2015

"I think that the point that really drove me to change my mind is that as we enter this kind of new chapter in our history here is, there’s another role the Senate plays that I think can be really important in the years to come."

-- Marco Rubio, June 22, 2016

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced that he will seek re-election in Florida, ending weeks of speculation about his political future.

Rubio told reporters that he faced a sense of duty to remain in office whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is elected president.

Rubio’s decision is a complete reversal of what he said as he ran for president, which likely opens him up for criticism as he begins his late campaign.

We traced Rubio’s statements about running for re-election, with a focus on statements since he announced for president in April 2015. We are putting his statements on PolitiFact’s Flip-O-Meter which measures the extent to which a politician flips without making a judgment call about those changes. (You can read all of our fact-checks of Rubio on our Truth-O-Meter.)

While campaigning, Rubio repeatedly said he was running for president and not for re-election. After he dropped out in March, he said he would not seek re-election. But in recent weeks some of his comments left wiggle room.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Democrats quick to pounce as Marco Rubio jumps back in Florida U.S. Senate race


With Marco Rubio announcing today that he'll seek re-election to his U.S. Senate seat after all, Democrats were quick to fire off statements this morning blasting the incumbent for going back on his word -- offering a glimpse at the critical attacks they're likely to lob at Rubio in the months ahead.

"Marco Rubio abandoned his constituents, and now he's treating them like a consolation prize," Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy said in a statement. "Unlike Marco Rubio, I love working hard every single day for the people of Florida. From missing the most votes of any Florida senator in nearly 50 years, to seeking to ban abortion even in cases of rape or incest, to repeatedly voting against closing the terrorist gun loophole, Rubio is proving he is only out for himself."

<<< MORE: "Rubio says yes to another Senate run after all" >>>

Minutes after the news of Rubio's decision broke, Murphy's campaign also sent out an urgent fundraising email -- capping off days of pitches for campaign cash that Murphy has made in the build up to Rubio's decision.

News of Rubio's decision came just a few hours after a new Quinnipiac University poll came out, showing that Rubio is Republicans' best hope by a wide margin of beating either Murphy or fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- which endorsed Murphy in the Democratic primary -- similarly blasted Rubio today for his attendance and voting record, his poor showing in Florida's presidential primary in March and his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"Now, he is cravenly using the deadliest mass shooting in American history as the springboard to go back on his word and further his political career," DSCC spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said in a statement. "They said it couldn't be done, but Marco Rubio's actions, words and votes reveal one of the more self-serving Washington politicians who has always put his political career above the people he represents."

On Tuesday in Tallahassee, Grayson told reporters it would be "delightful" to take Rubio on, and in a Facebook post after Rubio's announcement this morning, he added: "Oh, yes, please. Bring it on."

Continue reading "Democrats quick to pounce as Marco Rubio jumps back in Florida U.S. Senate race" »

June 21, 2016

Alan Grayson: It would be 'delightful' to take on 'incompetent' Marco Rubio


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alan Grayson blasted his potential opponent and current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio as "incompetent" and someone who has "no flare" for the elected office he's in.

"I think it's a delightful situation," the Orlando congressman said Tuesday afternoon of the prospect of facing Rubio, who has yet to decide whether he'll change his mind this week and seek re-election. (The deadline to qualify is noon Friday.)

Grayson made his remarks during a press conference he held in Tallahassee, after filing his paperwork to qualify for the August primary ballot and, then, urging Republican legislative leaders at the Florida Capitol to take up gun control measures after the Orlando shooting last week.

Grayson -- one of five Democrats now seeking Rubio's seat -- slammed the Miami Republican for his lack of productivity in the Senate, saying Rubio has produced only one bill in his five years there. Grayson, who calls himself the "congressman with guts," touted his own record of passing bills and amendments through the U.S. House.

<<< Politifact: "Alan Grayson says he passed more bills and amendments than any other current member" >>>

"I think it's shocking that anybody who is that incompetent -- if I may use that term -- as a legislator would be considered for an extension on his contract, much less a promotion to the presidency," Grayson said. "I was genuinely puzzled why anybody thought he was a plausible candidate for the president because, frankly, he's so bad as a senator."

"Maybe if he showed up more often he could get more things done," Grayson said, referencing Rubio's poor attendance record for which he's been relentlessly criticized. "I don't know why he wants to continue in the job. He doesn't seem to show any interest for it, and for God's sakes, certainly no flare. Maybe he should let somebody else do it for a while who has some ability to get good things done for the people of Florida."

"There's a reason why he's called 'No Show Rubio,' and I'm called the 'most effective member of Congress,' " Grayson added, citing praise he quotes often from Slate magazine in an article that was published three years ago.

Spokespeople for Rubio did not immediately return an email seeking comment this evening.

Grayson is running against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, Miami labor attorney Pam Keith, Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and Orlando businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban


Attempting symbolic similarity to Martin Luther and his "95 Theses" to the Catholic Church, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson on Tuesday urged the Republican-led Florida Legislature to adopt stricter gun control measures in the aftermath of last week's shooting massacre at a gay nightclub near his district.

The Orlando congressman affixed to the doors of the Florida House and Senate chambers in Tallahassee a summary of the bill analysis for the law Connecticut passed a few months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in that state four years ago. Assault weapons were used in both the Orlando and Newtown tragedies.

"It's much too easy in America today to kill so many people so quickly," Grayson told reporters who captured his photo op in the Florida Capitol. "This bill ended that for people in Connecticut."

He said seven states have adopted either bans or heavy restrictions on assault weapons, and "I think that this state needs to do that."

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, didn't acknowledge Grayson's request when asked for comment by the Herald/Times, but he did slam Grayson for using the Orlando shooting for political gain.

"Last week, our first-responders bravely and selflessly ran into the Pulse nightclub to end the horrible terror attack in Orlando," Crisafulli said in a statement. "That is quite a contrast to Congressman Alan Grayson who is using the same tragedy to run in front of television cameras to gain attention for his floundering U.S. Senate campaign."

Continue reading "Alan Grayson calls for Florida Legislature to adopt Connecticut's assault weapons ban" »

Alan Grayson files to qualify for U.S. Senate race

0621 Grayson files


Seeking to become the fourth Democrat to qualify for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat, Orlando U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson submitted his candidate paperwork this afternoon at the state Bureau of Elections' office in Tallahassee.

Shortly after noon, Grayson dropped off his $10,440 check to get on the ballot, along with his candidate oath.

Three other Democrats officially qualified on Monday, the first of the five-day window for candidates to qualify for this year's primary and general elections. They were: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and California businessman "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente, a former presidential hopeful who moved to Orlando in March. (Murphy pre-filed by submitting his paperwork two weeks ago.)

Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith -- who, along with Murphy and Grayson, has been actively campaigning for months -- has yet to submit her paperwork. She has until noon Friday to do so.

Before the deadline, there may be other candidates who jump in the race, as well. De La Fuente and Luster only started campaigning for the seat this month, and De La Fuente -- who spent $6 million of his own money on an unsuccessful presidential bid -- could potentially be a wild card in the Senate contest.

On the Republican side, still only Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox had qualified by 2:45 p.m. Tuesday -- as the political world still waits for incumbent Republican Marco Rubio to make a decision on seeking re-election.

Photo credit: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, submits his paperwork to qualify for Florida's U.S. Senate race on June 21, 2016 at the Florida Bureau of Elections' office in Tallahassee. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau