U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, said on Sunday that his primary opponent in Florida's U.S. Senate race -- fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- has "violated the public trust" and "put Floridians second to his pocketbook" through his management of an offshore hedge fund and that Grayson should resign his seat from Congress "if all of these allegations are true."
Questions over Grayson's hedge fund activities have dogged the Orlando Democrat for much of the past year. Various media outlets, including the Tampa Bay Times, have reported on the investments, which until last fall were based in the Cayman Islands. Grayson also faces a congressional ethics investigation into the matter.
He denies any wrongdoing; his spokesman said again Sunday that Grayson "did nothing unethical, illegal or even fattening."
The controversy boiled over late last week with a detailed New York Times report that cited interviews, “emails and marketing documents” indicating Grayson was using his position in Congress to advance the hedge fund he managed. (Grayson denounced the report as "replete with misleading statements, innuendo and outright lies.")
The article prompted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Friday to call on Grayson to end his bid for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat. Reid -- whose political committee previously donated to Murphy's campaign -- said Grayson "has no moral compass" and his alleged activities "disgrace the halls of Congress."
Two days later, in a conference call with reporters on Sunday, Murphy offered a similar sentiment toward Grayson.
"It’s clear that he used his official position for personal gain. That’s not only unacceptable, it's unethical," Murphy said.
Murphy and Grayson are competing in the August Democratic primary in Florida's U.S. Senate race -- which has drawn national attention, because the outcome of the November election could decide which party controls the chamber next year.
"Alan Grayson has broken the trust of the voters who put him in office, and he has failed his constituents," Murphy said, calling on Grayson to close his hedge fund or show proof that it has been closed.
"Patrick Murphy can't legitimately call for anything when he ducks questions about selling his votes to political donors," Grayson spokesman David Damron said. "Congressman Grayson did nothing unethical, illegal or even fattening, so Wall Street's errand boy should stop this desperate, issue-phobic smear campaign, and be more respectful to voters. Does he even understand the concept of Valentine's Day?”
Like Reid, Murphy called the allegations against Grayson "deeply troubling." When asked whether Grayson should end his Senate campaign -- as Reid had called for -- Murphy said "that's up to him, quite frankly," but Murphy said he didn't know how Grayson could continue campaigning while dealing with both his job in Congress and the hedge fund controversy.
As to whether Grayson should resign from his current seat in the U.S. House, Murphy said: "If all of these allegations are true -- and I'm assuming it's true that there is an actual ethics investigation going -- I would think he would have to resign from office."
"I think that would be the necessary course of action," Murphy added.
Grayson, a liberal progressive, has previously highlighted campaign contributions Murphy has received from Wall Street. As Murphy's conference call was set to begin, Grayson's campaign sent to reporters a few suggested questions regarding Murphy's own record on investment legislation before Congress -- specifically Murphy's co-sponsorship of H.R. 766, which Grayson's campaign said would "make it harder to prosecute white-collar criminals on Wall Street" and which Murphy co-sponsored but "has avoided voting on" since he entered the Senate race last spring.
Murphy didn't directly respond to reporters who broached Grayson's questions on the call. Murphy said Grayson's attacks "strike me as very desperate" and his spokesman Joshua Karp said Grayson was attempting to "distract" from responding to his own hedge fund controversy.
Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald