Capitalizing on a controversy affecting Democrat Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign less than a week from Election Day, Florida Republican Party leaders want Murphy to return what they call "tainted donations" that a Capitol Hill newspaper reported are the subject of an FBI investigation.
But Murphy's campaign told the Herald/Times on Friday that the Jupiter congressman has no plans to.
The Hill reported this week that federal investigators are looking into allegations that Murphy donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid -- the son of a Saudi billionaire whom Murphy first met in high school -- orchestrated a "straw donor" scheme to boost Murphy's first run for Congress in 2012. The accusations originated from the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP super PAC that filed a formal complaint in June and is spending $15 million on ad time this fall to attack Murphy and support Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
The Hill noted that Murphy himself is not under investigation, and Murphy's campaign has said repeatedly this week -- in the original story and subsequent media interviews about it -- that neither Murphy nor anyone from his campaign has been contacted by the FBI.
Seeking to link Murphy's (unrelated) controversy with that of the FBI's probe into Hillary Clinton's emails, Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement Thursday: "Floridians are tired of the Democrats and their concurrent FBI investigations. ... It’s time for [Murphy] to return all of the donations tied to the alleged straw donor scheme and finally end his track record of shady campaign contributions."
Murphy's campaign says it's not going to return the money -- citing the political motivations of both RPOF's request and the Senate Leadership Fund's complaint.
The campaign also noted -- in explaining its decision to the Herald/Times -- that The Hill's report is based on unnamed sources and not, what the campaign would deem, information that proves definitively an FBI investigation is ongoing or that the donor scheme even happened. Murphy's campaign added that it doesn't dispute the facts in The Hill's story, although the congressman downplayed it Wednesday, telling reporters: "There's nothing in there."
"There is no investigation into Patrick Murphy, as The Hill reported. We haven't been contacted by any authority about this issue," Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp reiterated in a statement Friday.
Murphy -- as recently as this week -- has agreed to donate other past contributions associated with controversy, though.
For instance, on Monday, Murphy's campaign said he would donate to the U.S. Treasury nearly $22,000 in contributions Murphy received from a Boston Law firm that was exposed by The Boston Globe over the weekend for allegedly engaging in a different type of donation scheme.
Last spring, Murphy also said he'd given away $16,000 in direct contributions from Al-Rashid after the Senate Leadership Fund publicized the fact that Al-Rashid had pleaded guilty in 2014 to an assault charge against his wife.
Murphy's campaign said those two examples are different because, in the latter situation, it involved proven criminal charges or, in The Globe's case, "a thorough investigation by a widely respected newspaper."
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