June 09, 2016

Alan Grayson should donate 'African slave labor profits,' opponent says

@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's campaign says his primary opponent Alan Grayson should donate to charity any profits Grayson or his children made from previous investments in a company that operated in Eritrea -- an east African country whose government leaders, a United Nations commission now says, have committed "crimes against humanity."

Bloomberg Politics reported back in February that Grayson's children invested in -- and profited from -- a Canadian company called Nevsun that operates a gold and copper mine in Eritrea. The country is accused of using "forced labor via the national service program to help build the mine," Bloomberg reported.

Grayson told Bloomberg at the time: "I didn’t know, I couldn’t have known, and I did nothing wrong, nor did my children" and that "if I had known, then I would have divested." (The family ultimately did divest from Nevsun.)

Nonetheless, Murphy's campaign chastised Grayson then for the investment and renewed its call Thursday for Grayson to donate the money his family made.

Why now?

On Wednesday, a United Nations commission of inquiry said it found Eritrea's top political and military leaders "have committed and continue to commit" crimes including enslavement, imprisonment and disappearances, torture, rape and murder," The New York Times reported.

The newspaper wrote: "One of the most egregious offenses, the United Nation commission found, was the forced conscription of young people in a never-ending national service program that has driven thousands of young Eritreans to flee, many to Europe."

The Eritrean government denounced the report, saying it was deeply flawed and unsupported by evidence, the Times reported.

"While it’s barely a surprise to those who know his character, it is truly unconscionable that Alan Grayson refuses to donate this money to charity," Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement. "If Congressman Grayson has any sense of decency, he will donate every penny of his profit from the suffering of innocent people."

Bloomberg said it's unclear how much Grayson's family made from its investments. When asked by the Herald/Times for a response to Murphy's appeal, Grayson's campaign didn't specifically address it; his campaign manager, Michael Ceraso, said "once more Patrick Murphy is trying to distract voters."

"Rep. Grayson has a strong record of professional and legislative accomplishments, and nothing to hide," Ceraso said. "Rep. Grayson will fight to expand Social Security, Medicare and the minimum wage. That's what voters really care about."

Grayson and Murphy -- both U.S. congressmen -- and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith are running in the Aug. 30 primary in the race for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat.

Marco Rubio says 'concerns' are why he halted South Florida judge's nomination

After months of being vague, Marco Rubio told an Orlando TV station this week exactly why he was blocking the nomination of a South Florida judge to the federal bench.

Politico obtained a portion of an unaired interview that Rubio gave with WFTV in Orlando on Monday.

In it -- Politico reported -- Rubio said he had "concerns" that Miami lawyer Mary Barzee Flores gave, what Politico described as, "conflicting answers" to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission about her previous support for a left-leaning political group, EMILY's List. Rubio was also reportedly troubled that Barzee Flores wasn't candid about her involvement in a 2001 criminal case that resulted in claims of ineffective counsel.

Four years ago, a federal judge found Barzee Flores and then-fellow Miami federal public defender Reuben Camper Cahn had "prejudiced" the case of a client, Yuby Ramirez, when they gave bad advice for her to reject plea deals from prosecutors. The judge threw out Ramirez's life sentence.

President Barack Obama nominated Barzee Flores, a former state circuit court judge, more than a year ago for a vacancy on South Florida's federal bench. Rubio's delay in advancing her nomination in the U.S. Senate has sparked criticism of partisanship.

Rubio told the Miami Herald last week that Barzee Flores was the "wrong person" for the federal appointment but didn't offer specifics.

Read Politico's full story here.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney: Dems likely win Florida Senate race unless Marco Rubio runs

via @adamsmithtimes

Marco Rubio came pretty close to finally closing the door another run for U.S. Senate by agreeing to host a fundraiser for his friend, Senate candidate and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on June 24, the final day for candidates to qualify for that office. But the pressure on Rubio to step up (and less directly for CLC to step aside) continues.

"Our ability to keep a majority in the Senate hangs in the balance, so we really can't afford to lose any seats. And in a purple state in a presidential year, I think Patrick Murphy wins that seat unless we have an incumbent running. It's politics 101," said U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, noting that Democratic candidate Murphy already has President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden campaigning on his behalf in Florida.

Rooney said he doesn't mean to knock the five Republicans already running, but unless one of them starts to show any sign of breaking out, "we would be basically giving up that seat" without Rubio running.

Rooney said he has texted Rubio, urging him to seriously consider another term. No response.

 

Patrick Murphy traded donations for favors, complaint alleges

@ByKristenMClark

A progressive blogger in Los Angeles is ratcheting up criticism against Florida Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy over his ties to political donors who benefit from a visa program that Murphy has supported.

Howie Klein, of the partisan "Down With Tyranny" blog, wrote Wednesday that he'd filed identical complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Federal Elections Commission alleging that Murphy "violated federal law and House (ethics) rules by accepting campaign contributions in exchange for co-sponsoring legislation sought by a contributor."

Read a copy of Klein's six-page complaint on his blog.

Klein and contributors to his blog have been routinely critical of Murphy's bid for U.S. Senate and highly supportive of his main primary opponent, fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando -- whose campaign Klein has encouraged his readers to donate to. (Pam Keith is also running in the Aug. 30 primary against Murphy and Grayson.)

In a statement to the Herald/Times, Murphy campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen didn't specifically address Klein's accusations but said the complaints were politically motivated.

"This complaint, written by one of Alan Grayson's most prominent fundraisers and supporters, isn't worth the paper it's written on. Congressman Grayson and his allies are just throwing mud at the wall and hoping it will stick," Slayen said, noting Grayson himself remains the subject of a congressional ethics investigation over hedge funds he managed.

At issue in Klein's complaints against Murphy is Murphy's support for the EB-5 visa program -- which fast-tracks foreign investors and their immediate family for green cards when they fund projects that create jobs for U.S. workers.

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy traded donations for favors, complaint alleges" »

Todd Wilcox tells Carlos Beruff: 'Man up'

@ByKristenMClark

Todd Wilcox is fuming that Carlos Beruff said Wilcox and the three other Republican U.S. Senate candidates aren't "worth debating."

Wilcox unleashed a torrent of criticism on Beruff Thursday morning, going so far as to question Beruff's manhood in a lengthy open letter to Beruff entitled "Man up."

"I am a decorated combat veteran who has twice led men into battle in defense of your freedom and liberty. You see, where I come from, real men stand up and face their opponents with honor and integrity," Wilcox wrote. "Next time you want to make excuses for hiding from Florida voters, keep your misguided estimation of my 'worth' to yourself."

The letter is in reaction to comments Beruff made on Sarasota TV last week -- when Beruff explained why exactly he skipped what was supposed to be the first political forum featuring all five Republican candidates running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

"I was never gonna go, so I don't understand what happened," the Manatee County developer told ABC 7. "I had a conflict, and I didn't go. That's all there is to it."

Reporter Alan Cohn later asked Beruff if it was important for him to debate his opponents ahead of the Aug. 30 primary, and Beruff responded: "When there's somebody worth debating. At this point, I don't think there is any."

Beruff and Wilcox, both businessmen, are painting themselves as the "outsiders" in the contest, which also includes U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera.

Lopez Cantera's campaign was also critical of Beruff's absence from last week's forum.

"Beruff is truly mastering the five D's of political dodgeball every time he continues to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and again, dodge the voters," Lopez Cantera spokeswoman Courtney Alexander said in a statement on Wednesday.

Wilcox said in his letter he's "not afraid" to speak to Republican supporters or stand on stages and take questions about issues. Implying Beruff is, Wilcox said: "You claim to be an outsider. You claim to be different than the guys in Washington, yet you're hiding behind your beltway consultants and your DC-produced political ads."

Beruff campaign spokesman Chris Hartline called Wilcox's letter "just another desperate cry for attention from one of our opponents."

"Carlos has travelled to all 67 counties in Florida meeting with voters, activists and local elected officials to talk about his message of bringing real change to Washington and will continue to do so," Hartline said in a statement. 

Here's Wilcox's full "open letter" to Beruff:

Continue reading "Todd Wilcox tells Carlos Beruff: 'Man up'" »

June 06, 2016

Patrick Murphy downplays documented discrepancies in his accomplishments (video)

@ByKristenMClark

Calling them "baseless attacks by Republicans," Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy on Monday dismissed and downplayed recent media reports that have demonstrated ways Murphy has exaggerated his academic and job credentials or contradicted himself on his accomplishments.

Murphy said he's "absolutely not" embellished his resume and he shifted blame to Republican operatives.

"This is just more baseless attacks by the Republicans who are clearly just trying to help my primary opponent, Alan Grayson," Murphy said, speaking with reporters in Tallahassee after he filed paperwork to qualify for the 2016 elections. "They want him to be the nominee. They're not even hiding that; they're saying it straight up right now."

Republicans have mentioned they'd prefer Grayson win the primary, but that's because polls show Grayson is more vulnerable to the Republican slate of candidates, while Murphy maintains a strong lead over each of them.

"They're digging right now, and they're trying to find something that just simply doesn't exist," Murphy said, deflecting with campaign talking points.

It's common for Republican and Democratic operatives -- and especially candidate's campaigns -- to offer story ideas to political journalists. But in this case, the stories didn't arise from such tips. They've come, instead, from reporters at the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Politico Florida vetting Murphy's background and uncovering discrepancies between what he has said publicly in his Senate campaign and what public records and his own previous accounts have shown.

A pattern has developed -- with questions about his University of Miami education, his time "leading cleanup efforts" after the 2010 BP oil spill and, most recently, how much time he spent working professionally as a certified public accountant.

Murphy, Grayson and political newcomer Pam Keith are competing in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Watch Murphy's full remarks above.

Fact-checking a claim about Carlos Lopez-Cantera's budget

Politifact-photos-CLCwScottTBTimes

In the crowded Republican primary to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera says he has evidence that he takes care of taxpayers’ wallets.

"I've cut the budget of the office by more than half, reduced the staff," he said in aninterview on the April 30 Money, Power, Politics show on Fox 13 in Tampa. "I'm the only lieutenant governor to not take a security detail."

He has declined his security detail, breaking from his predecessors. Lopez-Cantera has also cut the budget and reduced staff positions.

But he is leaving out some context.

Keep reading here.

Patrick Murphy officially files for U.S. Senate race

060616 patrick murphy filing

@ByKristenMClark

Today is the first day in which U.S. House and U.S. Senate hopefuls in Florida can start to officially qualify for the 2016 elections.

Not wanting to waste any time, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy filed his paperwork -- and a $10,440 check for the filing fee -- in person this morning with the Florida Division of Elections.

Murphy technically "pre-qualified," as the official filing period for all candidates is June 20-24. He was the second U.S. Senate candidate to submit paperwork in person on Monday. Tony Khoury, an independent candidate from Miami, filed about 10 minutes before Murphy.

Murphy was joined this morning by Andrew Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, and state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, who are supporting him in the Aug. 30 primary.

Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, is running against fellow Democrats U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith. The primary will decide which of them will be the Democratic candidate in the general election.

Murphy is viewed as a front-runner in the race, buoyed by favorable polling numbers, strong fundraising and the support of the Democratic Party establishment.

In fundraising emails over the weekend, Murphy's campaign pushed for more dollars from donors -- hoping to send a message to Republican Marco Rubio, should he change his mind and seek re-election to the seat he planned to vacate when he launched his unsuccessful bid for the presidency.

"Patrick’s not wasting any time getting on the ballot," a Sunday fundraising email from his campaign said. "Rubio has until the 24th to make up his mind -- but he could file as early as tomorrow morning! This is our chance to show him how hard we’re willing to fight against him if he does."

Rubio has said in recent interviews he isn't changing his mind, and he has unofficially endorsed Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera as his successor. But Republican leaders -- including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- are pressuring Rubio to run, as none of the five Republican contenders, including Lopez Cantera, have been able to break out from the crowded field after months on the campaign trail.

The other Republicans running in the Aug. 30 primary are: U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox and Manatee County home-builder Carlos Beruff.

Photo credit: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, center, joins Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy as Murphy files his paperwork for the 2016 elections at the Florida Division of Elections in Tallahassee on Monday, June 6, 2016. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau.

Patrick Murphy misstated CPA experience, too, report says

@ByKristenMClark

Did Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy also overstate the time he spent working as a certified public accountant?

That's what Politico reports this morning, on the heels of Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times reports that revealed both an exaggeration and a contradiction in Murphy's resume.

His experience as a CPA has been a big resume booster for Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter who entered politics five years ago. But Politico highlights a discrepancy in Murphy's selling point: He's previously said that he "spent several years as a certified public accountant working for Deloitte & Touche" but he had the CPA license for less than a year while working for the firm.

In a profile of Murphy published Friday, the Herald/Times reported how Murphy took a break from working at his family's Coastal Construction company to gain experience at a private accounting firm. He worked for Deloitte & Touche in Miami as an auditor from September 2007 to May 2010. A Deloitte spokeswoman confirmed Murphy's employment but couldn't specify what positions he held during that time.

Murphy got his CPA license through Colorado in September 2009 -- eight months before leaving Deloitte to return to Coastal as vice president of its environmental services division.

Murphy told both the Herald/Times and Politico that he got licensed in Colorado because it has more flexible requirements to sit for the CPA exam than Murphy's home state of Florida, where he's lived, been educated and worked his entire life. Politico reported Murphy actually took the test in Vermont, though.

“I was excited to get my license and to start my career,” Murphy told the Herald/Times.

Read Politico's full report here.

Resume misstatements have dogged Murphy for the past few weeks, at a critical time 90 days before the Aug. 30 Democratic primary -- when he'll face fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith.

Last month, the Herald/Times reported that Murphy exaggerated his academic credentials in recent years by saying he had "dual degrees" from the University of Miami, when he actually earned a single bachelor's degree with two majors. (His U.S. Senate campaign called the discrepancy an "inadvertent error.")

The Tampa Bay Times also reported that Murphy's claim to have spent “six months in the Gulf of Mexico leading cleanup efforts" after the 2010 BP oil spill contradicts with a timeline Murphy's Senate campaign provided to account for those months.

One Republican political group, funded by "dark money," says Murphy should resign for "lying" about his educational and job credentials.

June 03, 2016

Republicans pounce on President Obama's Miami fundraisers for DNC, Patrick Murphy

AP_27689312334@ByKristenMClark

National and state Republicans are casting President Barack Obama's political events in Miami today as the Democratic Party's figurehead intervening in a critical toss-up state.

Obama is in South Florida this evening for a couple Democratic fundraisers: one for U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- the arm of the Democratic Party that's tasked with electing candidates to the U.S. Senate -- and another for the Democratic National Committee. (The DNC event was being billed as potentially Obama's last visit to Miami as president.)

Wadi Gaitan, spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement that Obama was attempting "to calm the rising tide of Democratic disunity through speeches and fundraisers."

"Floridians continue to distrust the failed policies that the president and Hillary Clinton are promoting. Voters are ready for a new leader who will turn the page on the last eight years of this broken administration by fighting for real solutions for all Americans," Gaitan said -- without naming the GOP's presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee -- the GOP version of the DSCC -- said Obama was trying "to bail out Patrick Murphy" by fundraising for him in person.

Murphy is seen as a front-runner in the competitive race to replace Marco Rubio -- a contest that could determine which party has control of the Senate next year. But Murphy had a rocky month in May, largely in part because of reports by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times that highlighted inconsistencies in the Democratic candidate's résumé.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Murphy in March -- an achievement Murphy proudly touts -- and since then, Biden has campaigned and fund-raised for Murphy twice, first in Miami and then in Orlando last month.

So it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that Obama might campaign for him, too, at some point.

The NRSC said Murphy "is not only watching the bottom fall out of his campaign, but is struggling to gain oxygen in a brutal primary fight against liberal hero Alan Grayson." (Murphy, Grayson and Miami labor attorney Pam Keith are competing in the Aug. 30 primary.)

"With Murphy in a tailspin, it’s hardly a surprise that D.C. Democrats are pulling out all the stops to bail out their chosen candidate," the NRSC said in a statement this morning.

Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp told the Herald/Times that "Republicans keep cheer-leading for ethically challenged hedge fund manager Alan Grayson to win the Democratic primary." 

"Meanwhile, Patrick is proud to be endorsed and supported by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and over a hundred other Democratic leaders. That tells Florida Democrats all they need to know," Karp said in a campaign statement.

Some Republicans have, indeed, expressed a desire for Grayson to win the primary -- but that's because it would give their GOP candidate a stronger chance to win the general election (and hold on to the seat for Republicans). Polls of the U.S. Senate race so far have, in general, shown both Murphy and Grayson leading over the five Republican contenders, but with Grayson doing so by a slimmer margin than Murphy.

The five Republicans running in that party primary are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox and Manatee County home-builder Carlos Beruff.

UPDATE: 3:40 p.m.

Lopez-Cantera's campaign also chimed in about Obama's event for Murphy with a statement this morning, saying in part: "Murphy is bringing in America's most divisive president to fundraise for him today to further try to prop up his flailing Senate bid while he continues to stumble."

Photo credit: President Barack Obama arrives at Cecil Airport on Air Force One with Rep. Patrick Murphy, left, and Rep. Corrine Brown, Feb. 26, 2016, in Jacksonville. Rick Wilson / AP