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Murphy tops $1 million; Frankel invokes 2012 foe for 2014 cash; West explains New Hampshire gig

Monday, July 8th, 2013 by George Bennett

Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, now has more than $1 million in the bank for his 2014 re-election effort while the Republican field remains murky for a race the national GOP has identified as one of its top priorities.

Read the latest on the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 race in this week’s Politics column (subscriber content).

Also in the Politics column: One of the Republicans mentioned as a possible Murphy challenger is former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who lost a 2012 congressional race to Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. There’s been no serious talk about Hasner seeking a rematch against Frankel — but Frankel recently raised the possibility in a fundraising appeal.

Finally, in a Politics column exclusive, former U.S. Rep. Allen West offers two reasons why he’s keynoting a Republican fundraiser in New Hampshire next month.

The Politics column and other premium content is available to subscribers at

Palm Beach County GOP collects some money, re-hires staff, eyes strategic plan

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 by George Bennett

Less than two weeks after the Palm Beach County Republican Party responded to a donation downturn by laying off its two paid staffers and slashing its budget 44 percent, county GOP Chairman Ira Sabin announced that an infusion of money has allowed the party to re-hire its employees.

“We had some donors step up and that allowed us to resume normal operations,” Sabin said today.

Sabin said the party has collected at least $20,000 since its financial troubles came to light, with the Rooney family‘s Palm Beach Kennel Club and former party treasurer John Herrick making the biggest contributions. Sabin would not reveal how much individual donors gave, even though contributions will be publicly reported next month when the party files its quarterly finance report with the county elections office.

Sabin has also appointed longtime Republican operative Larry Casey to the new, unpaid post of “director of strategic planning” to help the party map its future course. Casey is a Capitol Hill veteran who also served in appointed posts in the Reagan, Bush I and Bush II administrations and was a campaign manager and top local aide to former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw.

Casey described his role as “putting some of the best and most creative minds of the party together to come up with a blueprint to make it financially stable, organizationally stable and politically stable into the future.”

Sabin last week tapped Angela West, a financial adviser and the wife of former U.S. Rep. Allen West, to be the party’s unpaid “interim director of marketing and fundraising.”

Before the latest financial drama, the county GOP had a $310,000 budget that included roughly $105,000 to pay the salaries of executive director Cathy Brandenburg and political director Mark Hoch. With contributions drying up this year, Sabin laid off the staffers this month and the Republican Executive Committee agreed to cut the party’s budget to $172,667.

In radio interview, Allen West doesn’t rule out challenging Rubio in 2016 GOP Senate primary

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 by George Bennett

Saying he has “a lot of concerns” about the immigration reform bill backed by Sen. Marco Rubio, former Rep. Allen West didn’t say no this morning when a Washington radio interviewer raised the possibility of West challenging Rubio in a 2016 GOP Senate primary.

WMAL host Larry O’Connor said many tea party conservatives who helped elect Rubio in 2010 aren’t pleased with Rubio’s immigration stance.

“There’s a lot of people whispering maybe he should be primaried in 2016. What about an Allen West primary challenge for that Senate seat?” O’Connor asked.

Said West: “That’s a pretty heavy lift, because you’re talking about running against a sitting senator, and of course, then, that creates that schism that the other side would love to see happen.”

When O’Connor noted that West was “not saying no,” West was silent for a second, then said “Chirping, chirping, chirping” with a laugh.

West suggested he might run “if I see people that are not taking our country down the right path, if I see people that are not standing up for the right type of principles and putting their own party politics before what is best for the United States of America…We’ll see what happens down the pike. God will set my feet on the right path.”

Angela Graham-West to provide marketing, fundraising help to ailing Palm Beach County GOP

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 by George Bennett

Angela Graham-West

The cash-strapped Palm Beach County Republican Party is turning to Angela Graham-West — a Raymond James financial adviser, former business professor and the wife of former U.S. Rep. Allen West — for marketing and fundraising help.

County GOP Chairman Ira Sabin said Graham-West, who is volunteering her time, will have the title “interim director of marketing and fundraising.”

With the local GOP plagued by lackluster fundraising, Sabin has laid off the party’s two paid staffers and tonight will ask Republican Executive Committee members to approve a 44 percent slashing of the local party budget, reducing it from the $310,000 approved earlier in the year to $172,667.

Graham-West said her role “won’t be so much fundraising as marketing…The idea is to bring some energy and a bit more excitement and just attract a broad range of people, which is what, on the national level, the Republican Party is supposed to be doing.”

She added: “Not being able to raise money is a symptom of not attracting a lot of people to what you’re doing and having them believe in what you’re doing.”

Graham-West attended a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches lunch on Tuesday in which Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz discussed the national GOP’s problems with attracting voters.

Graham-West, who said she agreed with much of what Luntz said, was asked how much the local GOP can do to counter broader Republican branding problems.

“There are issues on the national level,” she said. “But this is all I can do.”

Consultant in Miami-Dade ballot scheme made web videos for Murphy

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 by George Bennett

A congressional aide implicated in an absentee ballot scheme in Miami-Dade County while working on a Democratic campaign there also had “a very limited role” producing web videos for Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy’s 2012 campaign.

Murphy was “dismayed” by the news about consultant Jeffrey Garcia, whom the Murphy campaign characterized as a minor player who had no involvement in absentee ballots or get-out-the-vote efforts during Murphy’s 2012 victory over former Republican Rep. Allen West.

Jeffrey Garcia resigned Friday as chief of staff to Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami. The Miami Herald reported that Jeffrey Garcia, who is not related to Rep. Garcia, took responsibility for a plot to submit hundreds of fraudulent requests for absentee ballots during the 2012 primary when he was a top adviser to Joe Garcia’s campaign.

Jeffrey Garcia runs Palm Media LLC, which according to Federal Election Committee reports was paid $24,000 by Murphy’s campaign from April 2011 to April 2012 to produce web videos.

“Congressman Murphy was dismayed to hear today of the of the wrong doing involving Mr. Jeff Garcia. The integrity of the electoral process is vital to our political system,” said a Murphy campaign statement over the weekend. “Mr. Garcia’s media company had a very limited role in the campaign which included producing some web videos. He was not one of the campaign’s primary consultants and had no involvement in the campaign’s field program, absentee program or outreach to voters.”

Boca orthodontist and GOP donor brings in big-name black conservatives for outreach event

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 by George Bennett


Some prominent black Republicans and conservatives — including former U.S. Rep. Allen West, former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele — are coming to Boca Raton on Thursday for a dinner that aims to bring African Americans into the conservative fold.

The event, which is expected to draw 450 people, is being underwritten by Dr. Larry Kawa, a Boca Raton orthodontist. Kawa is a Republican donor who founded a PAC called American Courage, but he said he’s paying for everything himself — including the dinner and speakers’ travel costs — so the event won’t be tied to the GOP or political organizations.


“The idea is that I want to help enhance awareness within the black community of fiscal conservatism and how it affects them,” said Kawa, who is white. Kawa said he put together a list of 450 dinner invitees by contacting friends and patients who are black and some black churches, including politically connected Rev. O’Neal Dozier‘s Worldwide Christian Center.

In addition to West, Carroll and Steele, the speaker lineup will include Congress Of Racial Equality President Niger Innis and author Kevin Jackson.

Fox News signs Allen West as contributor

Friday, May 17th, 2013 by George Bennett

The real Allen West, left, with a lifesize likeness of himself promoting his online TV show at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference.

Fox News Channel has signed former U.S. Rep. Allen West as a contributor.

The conservative firebrand often appeared on Fox programs during his single term in the House and chose Fox as the venue when he conceded his narrow loss to Democrat Patrick Murphy in November.

“Representative West’s congressional and military experience along with his fearless approach to voicing key issues will provide a valuable point of view to the Fox News lineup,” said a statement from Bill Shine, the executive vice president of programming for Fox News.

In addition to his Fox duties, West will continue to be director of Next Generation TV programming for conservative PJ Media, where he hosts a subscription-only online TV show.

Mention of Allen West for lieutenant governor launches Dem fundraising appeal

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 by George Bennett

JUPITER — Gov. Rick Scott has offered few clues about who he’ll name as his lieutenant governor or how soon he’ll fill the post, which has been vacant since Jennifer Carroll resigned in March.

When a Tampa radio interviewer brought up former Rep. Allen West‘s name last week, Scott called West “a great American and a great patriot… he’d be a great lieutenant governor.”

That led Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux to send out a fundraising appeal today in hopes of capitalizing on lingering Democratic distaste for the conservative firebrand who lost his congressional seat last year.

“I need your help keep Rick Scott from hiring Allen West. It’s time to send both of them packing for good,” Areceneaux’s e-mail says.

Scott, asked today about filling the lieutenant governor’s job, said “we’ll start looking” now that the legislative session is over. Asked if he is considering West, Scott said, “I have not talked about who I’m considering. I’ve been asked about Congressman West and (said) he’s a great individual and he was very successful in Washington.”

Group plans to review St. Lucie County ballots, records from Murphy-West cliffhanger

Friday, May 10th, 2013 by George Bennett

Election drama in St. Lucie County included the discovery 10 days after the election that the 306 ballots in these cardboard boxes had not been counted.

A conservative group plans to examine more than 118,000 ballots and sift through voter registration records in St. Lucie County, which was the site of tabulating problems and litigation in Democrat Patrick Murphy‘s narrow congressional victory over Republican Allen West in November.

The group True The Vote says it will send at least 10 people to Fort Pierce to look at the ballots and records under an agreement reached this week with St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker.

True The Vote and Pamela Wohlschlegel, the former head of the Palm Beach County Tea Party, filed a federal suit against Walker in February, claiming her office was denying access to public records. Walker denied blocking access. A settlement dated Wednesday states True The Vote will have access to the records it wants and will pay the elections office for copies and staff time associated with the request.

“This lawsuit has never been about the victor. It’s been about vulnerabilities, vulnerabilities in the system,” True The Vote attorney J. Christian Adams said. He said at least 10 and as many as 50 people will participate in examining the ballots and records. Adams said his group expects to pay more than $20,000 for the exercise.

Among the questions True The Vote hopes to answer, Adams said, is “Were people voting in the congressional election that weren’t allowed to vote?”

The records True The Vote plans to review include registration forms for people who became voters after Jan. 1, 2012, notices sent to inactive voters, lists of voters purged from the county rolls after Jan. 1, 2009, notices sent to potential felons and lists of voters who were identified by the Florida secretary of state’s office as potential non-citizens.

Murphy officially defeated West by 1,904 votes or less than 0.6 percent in the expensive, nationally watched congressional District 18 race. About 36 percent of the ballots were cast in St. Lucie County, with the remainder in Martin and Palm Beach counties.

Walker admitted her office double-counted some ballots from early voting and failed to count others on election night. That led to a partial recount of 16,275 early-voting ballots in which West made a net gain of 535 votes. Based on those results and the subsequent revelation that another 306 early votes had gone uncounted, the county’s canvassing board ordered a recount of all 37,379 ballots from St. Lucie County’s early voting.

The larger recount showed Murphy making a net gain of 242 votes — but the revised figure was not included in the county’s official total because the canvassing board missed a noon deadline to submit its final results to the state Division of Elections.

Decision time approaching for GOP’s potential Murphy challengers

Monday, April 29th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Republican Rep. Allen West has nixed the idea of a 2014 rematch against Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who unseated him in November.

National Republicans would love state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to challenge Murphy next year, but Negron is opting to remain on the Senate president track.

At least eight other Republicans have shown some interest in running for Murphy’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional District 18 seat. With Murphy already building a warchest of more than $600,000, candidates are under pressure to decide soon whether to enter the race and start raising money.

Read about it in this week’s Politics column….

Rep. Patrick Murphy’s latest 30th birthday fundraiser draws GOP scorn

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by George Bennett

Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, turned 30 last month. But the parties continue for the youngest member of Congress.

Murphy supporters are hosting a low-dollar birthday bash Wednesday in Washington that requires only a $30 contribution for young professionals and students under 30.

According to the Sunlight Foundation’s Political Party Time website, which tracks fundraising parties by candidates and elected officials, it’s the fourth birthday-themed fundraiser for Murphy in the past month. His campaign used the three-decade milestone to raise money at events last month in Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Murphy raised an eye-popping $557,912 in the first quarter of 2013 and already has $672,013 cash on hand as he prepares for what could be a tough 2014 re-election bid. University of Virginia prognosticator Larry Sabato‘s Crystal Ball newsletter called Murphy the “most vulnerable” House Democrat in February because he narrowly beat Republican Allen West in 2012 in a district that voted 51.5 percent for Mitt Romney.

The GOP has not yet recruited a candidate to challenge Murphy. But that hasn’t stopped the National Republican Congressional Committee from running web ads attacking Murphy or from using the multiple birthday fundraisers to accuse Murphy of “treating his time in Congress like an episode of MTV’s Super Sweet 16.”

Allen West’s Facebook reaction to Boston suspects: ‘We have a domestic radical Islamic terror problem’

Friday, April 19th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West, reacting to reports that the suspects in the Boston Marathon terror bombings are Muslim, told his Facebook audience of more than 273,000 this morning that “we have a domestic radical Islamic terror problem in America.”

West, whose remarks about Islam have often generated controversy, got more than 13,000 “likes,” 6,300 shares and 1,300 comments in less than an hour for today’s Facebook post.

Read West’s statement after the jump…


Allen West to FAU protesters: Stop harassing my wife or face ‘the side of me that you do not want to see’

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former U.S. Rep. Allen West accused Florida Atlantic University protesters of harassing his wife, an FAU Board of Trustees member, and warned them in a Facebook post today to stop or “you will face me, the side of me that you do not want to see.”

The Stop Owlcatraz Coalition, a group formed to protest a $6 million stadium-naming deal at FAU, fired back with a statement accusing West of threatening students and calling on FAU to bar the former Republican congressman from all its campuses.

Angela West, a financial adviser with Raymond James, said two FAU students came uninvited to her Fort Lauderdale office last month to urge her to oppose a private prison contractor’s $6 million donation to the school. GEO Group, which made the $6 million pledge and was to have its name on FAU’s football stadium, ended up withdrawing the gift this month after weeks of uproar.

Angela West said that when she disagreed with the students who came to her office they demanded she resign from the board. When she asked them to leave, West said, one of the students said “Oh, you think you’re as tough as your husband.” West, who is black, said a student also accused her of wanting to “bring back Jim Crow” — a reference to laws that perpetuated segregation.

One of West’s co-workers at Raymond James, Leon Rehak, backed up her account and said that when the students left, they slammed a door so hard it nearly broke a window.

The Stop Owlcatraz Coalition offered a different account of the meeting in its statement.

“She agreed to a March 18 meeting at her Raymond James office in Fort Lauderdale. At that meeting, Angela became rude and aggressive and students walked out of the meeting as she began yelling at them,” the group’s statement said.


Allen West’s PAC raises $479,370, spends $267,887 in first quarter

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West has ruled out running for office in 2014. But through a PAC he formed to support other conservatives, West is raising and spending more money than a typical congressional candidate.

A Federal Election Commission report filed Monday night shows that his PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund, raised $479,370 during the first quarter of 2013 — most of it in contributions smaller than $200.

West’s PAC also spent $267,887 during the quarter, primarily on direct mail. The PAC began April with $220,169 in cash on hand.

The man who unseated West in November, Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, raised $557,912 in the first quarter and spent $157,524. Including money carried over from 2012, Murphy’s 2014 campaign has $672,013 in cash on hand.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, raised $302,061 and spent $97,433 during the quarter and has $332,119 cash on hand.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, raised $98,623 and spent $103,493 but still has a cash-on-hand balance of $466,395 from previous contributions.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, raised $37,307, spent $58,653 and has $234,760 in cash on hand.

West sends another $400k in leftover campaign cash to Allen West Foundation

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West gave $400,000 of leftover campaign money to the nonprofit Allen West Foundation, according to a Federal Election Commission report filed today.

The contribution was made March 27, according to West’s FEC report. West also gave $250,000 in unspent campaign money to his foundation in late December.

“The primary objective of the Allen West Foundation is to educate and inspire the next generation of conservative leaders among the minority and veteran communities,” says the Allen West Foundation website.

The foundation has applied for 501c4 status as a nonprofit education and advocacy group, spokeswoman Michele Hickford said. The foundation shares a Boca Raton address but is legally separate from the Allen West Guardian Fund PAC, which got $250,000 from West’s campaign in December.

The Guardian Fund hasn’t filed an FEC report so far today; the filing deadline is midnight tonight. In a late-March fundraising appeal, West said he was hoping to raise at least $250,000 for the PAC during the first quarter.

In addition to the $400,000 contribution to the Allen West Foundation, West’s congressional campaign listed more than $178,000 in expenditures related to the November recount in St. Lucie County. West narrowly lost his reelection bid to Democrat Patrick Murphy.

In Facebook feedback, Allen West’s traffic ticket tops Rubio’s TV blitz on immigration reform

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former U.S. Rep. Allen West lost his re-election bid in November, but he still has the ability to set Facebook ablaze.

Republican West, whose Facebook page has 268,074 “likes,” made two Facebook posts on Sunday complaining about a $166 traffic citation he received earlier in the day at the PGA Boulevard exit on Florida’s Turnpike. According to West, he stopped to pay his toll in a lane that was closed, backed up his car to get into another lane and was cited for an illegal lane change.

As of 1 p.m. today, West’s two citation-related posts had received a combined 22,450 likes, been shared 3,945 times and generated 10,059 comments — pro and con.

By comparison, a pair of Sunday Facebook posts on Republican Sen. Marco Rubio‘s page about his seven TV appearances to discuss immigration reform generated a combined 6,247 likes, 842 shares and 1,393 comments.

Rubio’s Facebook page has 454,848 likes, far outdistancing West. But West remains a much bigger Facebook presence than Gov. Rick Scott (82,432 likes) or Democratic National Chairwoman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (72,537) or Sen. Bill Nelson (16,219 likes) or West’s replacement, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy (15,050).

Murphy says he raised $550,000 in first quarter

Thursday, April 4th, 2013 by George Bennett

The campaign of freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, says it collected more than $550,000 during the first quarter of 2013 for a race that is being targeted by the national GOP.

Murphy’s campaign says it has more than $650,000 in cash on hand for the 2014 race.

By comparison, former Republican Rep. Allen West, the prolific fundraiser Murphy narrowly defeated last year, raised $456,873 in his first quarter as a freshman in 2011.

The fundraising quarter ended Sunday and Federal Election Commission reports aren’t due until April 15, but Murphy’s campaign was eager to release its fundraising figure in a Wednesday press release.

Republicans haven’t fielded a candidate to challenge Murphy in GOP-leaning District 18, but the GOP has already launched online ads attacking Murphy.

GOP still lacks candidate, but begins online attacks on Murphy

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 by George Bennett

The National Republican Congressional Committee today is beginning online video ad buys that attack freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. The GOP is spending about $2,000 for the online ads against Murphy, one of seven Democrats being targeted around the U.S.

The ads say Murphy already “fits right in” in Washington D.C. and that, “While Florida families are trying to live within their means, Patrick Murphy voted against balancing our budget. He even voted to allow Congressmen to fly first class on the taxpayers’ dime.”

That claim is based on Murphy’s March 21 vote against the Republican budget submitted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. The Ryan budget included a provision eliminating taxpayer-funded first class travel for members of Congress.

Murphy did break with most Democrats to vote for a Republican balanced-budget resolution this year. And while Murphy joined Dems in opposing the Ryan budget, he was one of the few House Democrats to vote against the major Democratic budget proposals as well, saying the plans put forward by his party weren’t serious about entitlement reform.

Murphy, who narrowly beat Republican Rep. Allen West in a GOP-leaning district in 2012, is a top GOP target for 2014, though Republicans haven’t fielded a challenger so far.

Change conservative values? ‘Malarkey’ says Allen West

Thursday, March 14th, 2013 by George Bennett

OXON HILL, Md. — Former U.S. Rep. Allen West urged conservatives this morning not to compromise their principles and to supplement their criticism of government handouts by drawing more attention to their own private acts of charity.

West was one of the first speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day affair that will feature Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and several other potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

“I’ll give it to you straight: Last November we did take one on the jaw,” said West, who narrowly lost his re-election bid to Democrat Patrick Murphy in America’s most expensive U.S. House race. “But this movement and this fight is not defined by the punches that we take. We are defined by how quickly we pull ourselves off the mat and our perseverance.

“There is no shortage of people telling us what conservatism cannot accomplish, what we can’t do, how we cannot connect, how we must change our values to fit the times. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you that that truly is a bunch of malarkey. The last time I checked a bended knee is not, nor shall it ever be, a conservative tradition.”

West, whose fiery conservative rhetoric has brought him a national following on the right, served up a few portions of red meat in his 20-minute speech.

“I’m speaking from experience when I tell you that there is nothing on this green earth that a liberal progressive fears more than a black American who wants a better life and a smaller government,” said West, who was one of only two black Republicans in the House during the last Congress.

“When more Americans prefer freebies to freedom, these great United States will become a fertile ground for tyranny,” West warned. “When did ‘Ask not what your country can do for you?’ become ‘Ask only what your country will give you.’?”

He got big applause when he said: “I’m a conservative because I believe in peace, real peace, and not peace of mind. I’m a conservative because I believe and understand that real peace comes from the Marine Corps, not the Peace Corps.”

West said he’s tired of “insufferable lectures” from liberals accusing conservatives of lacking compassion. He said conservatives are more likely to volunteer and give to charity while “the only charity a progressive sends is a smug sermon on fair share and what fairness is.”


With ‘newfound freedom,’ Allen West aims to boost conservative minorities and veterans

Thursday, March 14th, 2013 by George Bennett

OXON HILL, Md. — If you thought Allen West seemed too restrained as a tea party Republican member of the U.S. House, don’t worry.

West says in a new fundraising appeal that his narrow November loss to Democrat Patrick Murphy has given him “newfound freedom…to take my efforts to defeat the Obama liberal progressive agenda to the next level.”

That next level is a new PAC called the Allen West Guardian Fund, which will seek to elect a dozen “hard-charging constitutional conservatives who either have a military background or are minorities committed to taking a stand against big government and President Obama for the next four years.”

West is expected to roll out more details this morning when he addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference here just outside Washington.

The hard-charging West is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who was one of only two black Republicans in the House in the 112th Congress. (Now there are none; West lost and South Carolina’s Tim Scott was appointed to a U.S. Senate vacancy.)

In addition to the PAC launch, West has started The Allen West Foundation, a 501(c)4 nonprofit aimed at “educating and inspiring the next generation of conservative leaders within the minority and veteran communities nationwide.”

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