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

Patrick Murphy continues attacks on Alan Grayson over his hedge funds

Alangrayson01wmm

@ByKristenMClark

Like the monotonous beat of a war drum, Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign continues to take jabs at his Democratic primary opponent Alan Grayson over a congressional ethics investigation into Grayson's once-offshore hedge funds.

The 74-page report from the Office of Congressional Ethics came out two months ago, and Murphy's campaign has been highlighting tidbits of information from it for weeks -- including each day this week as part of a marketing blitz they've dubbed "What is Alan Grayson Hiding?"

Murphy and Grayson -- both U.S. congressmen -- and Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith are running in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary in the competitive race to replace Marco Rubio.

Murphy, of Jupiter, is attacking Grayson today for allegedly combining assets in his U.S. House financial disclosure form -- or what Murphy's Senate campaign described as: "Grayson's failure to distinguish between his hedge funds and his personal assets to hide millions."

"The facts are clear," Murphy's campaign said in a statement. "Alan Grayson failed to report assets and blatantly misreported others in a manner that undermined the entirety of his personal financial disclosure. Floridians deserve the truth." 

Murphy's campaign pointed to examples detailed in the ethics report (pgs. 49-52) to back up its criticism, but Grayson said those examples take his finances out of context and that Murphy was "giving a fictitious version" of what happened.

"There's no 'failure to distinguish' ... That simply didn't happen," said Grayson, of Orlando. He added: "Nothing was hidden, and the OCE report itself doesn't allege that millions were hidden -- or even a dollar was hidden."

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy continues attacks on Alan Grayson over his hedge funds" »

June 02, 2016

Conservative group wants Patrick Murphy to resign for 'lying' about credentials

Patrickmurphy01wmm

@ByKristenMClark

A conservative political group says U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy should "resign in disgrace immediately" in the wake of recent reports by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times that highlighted inconsistencies in the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate's résumé.

The Better Florida Alliance said Thursday it plans to launch an ad campaign -- both online and through direct mail -- "to inform every single Florida voter about Congressman Murphy's academic fraud and résumé padding."

Last week, the Herald/Times reported that Murphy had 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.

“Most of us earned our high school diplomas, our trade certifications, our college degrees. Some of us work hard and earn a living without any of those things, we don’t have to lie about it, we just work hard,” Better Florida Alliance spokesman Brian Burgess said in a statement.

Continue reading "Conservative group wants Patrick Murphy to resign for 'lying' about credentials" »

June 01, 2016

While in Miami, President Obama will also fundraise for Patrick Murphy

@ByKristenMClark

Vice President Joe Biden came to Florida twice this spring to help Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign. Now President Barack Obama will be here to help out Murphy, too.

Obama will be in Miami on Friday to help raise money for the Democratic National Committee, and during that visit, he'll also attend a separate event to fund-raise for Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign.

No further details are available about the Murphy event. TCPalm.com first reported on the fundraiser on Tuesday.

The website also said that Obama will travel to the Treasure Coast (in Murphy's congressional district) on Friday evening for a weekend of golf.

Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter, is the Democratic establishment's favored candidate for the Aug. 30 party primary. Murphy faces fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Miami labor attorney Pam Keith. (Five contenders are running in the GOP primary that same day.)

Obama and Biden endorsed Murphy in March, and since then, Biden has campaigned and fund-raised for him twice, first in Miami and then in Orlando last month.

Obama's and Biden's involvement in Florida's U.S. Senate race is a reflection of the significance the seat holds for Democrats. The seat, being vacated by Marco Rubio, is among a handful that could switch parties in November and possibly give Democrats a majority in the Senate again.

May 31, 2016

Alan Grayson weds Dena Minning, who's seeking to replace him in Congress

Graysonwedding

@ByKristenMClark

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson got married over the Memorial Day weekend to his fiancee Dena Minning, the candidate who's seeking to replace him in the race for Florida's 9th Congressional District.

Grayson's campaign confirmed the wedding, held in Melbourne Beach, in a statement this morning.

“Rep. Alan Grayson and his wife Dr. Dena Grayson had a small, private wedding ceremony Sunday evening, with friends and family in attendance to celebrate their union, in the Florida beach town where Dena grew up," spokeswoman Brook Hines said.

Minning, also a Democrat, revealed the marriage on social media late Monday by updating her Twitter and Facebook accounts to reflect her married name.

She also updated her Facebook profile photo to one of her and Grayson, with the caption: "My handsome, brilliant, and amazing husband, Alan Grayson!!"

The Orlando Political Observer first reported on the nuptials Monday night.

It's the third marriage for Grayson, who finalized a messy and highly publicized divorce last year from his second wife, Lolita Grayson. That marriage was annulled last summer.

May 30, 2016

Pam Keith, the other Florida Democrat running for U.S. Senate

@ByKristenMClark

While Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson attack one another in an increasingly bitter battle to become Florida Democrats’ candidate for U.S. Senate, Pam Keith is quietly turning heads to present herself as an alternative contender.

The 47-year-old labor attorney and former naval officer has flown under the radar, criss-crossing the state for months to build support in her bid for Florida’s open seat.

She’s been in the race longer than any of the seven other major candidates, Republicans or Democrats. But without much money, few endorsements and barely any consideration in statewide polls, Keith remains unknown to most Floridians.

She knows the odds. But she also knows there’s 90 days left to persuade Democratic voters that they should choose her in what is a closely watched race that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

Keith, a Miami resident, also has a possible opening: A significant portion of voters are still undecided, and the flaws of Murphy and Grayson — two sitting U.S. congressmen — are getting more attention, potentially turning off the party’s more independent voters.

“I don’t think it’s a good dynamic for the Democratic Party to offer a slate of insider millionaire candidates in a season where people are clamoring for outsiders,” she said.

Read more here.