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Earth Day politics roundup: Hold hearing, tour recycling plant, celebrate Everglades, profess concern

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (left) with "Alligator" Ron Bergeron, Sr. at a recycling facility in Broward County.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera toured a recycling plant in Broward County. Sen. Bill Nelson held a hearing on sea-level rise in Miami. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, took time out from her visit to Ukraine to bemoan rising temperatures on Twitter. And a slew of other elected officials and candidates used social media to offer hashtagged expressions of concern for the environment and future generations on Earth Day 2014.

Some examples after the jump…


Murphy aide’s side business billed $91,500 in political consulting fees last year

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by George Bennett

Eric Johnson, left, when he was chief of staff to former Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler. (Sundance Channel photo)

Eric Johnson was chief political strategist for Democrat Patrick Murphy‘s victory over Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West in America’s costliest House race in 2012.

Murphy tapped Johnson to be chief of staff for his congressional office, a position that paid Johnson $113,417 last year.

For Johnson, taking the six-figure Capitol Hill job didn’t mean giving up his work as a political consultant. His company, Johnson Campaigns Inc., was paid a combined $91,500 in 2013 by the campaigns of Murphy, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and three Democratic state House members.

Subscribers to can find out more details on how Johnson balances his official and political jobs in this week’s Politics column.

Did Republican Domino spend $42,087 to raise $31,840 in congressional race?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 by George Bennett

Carl Domino (left) and other Republican congressional candidates at a January forum.

UPDATED 5 PM – Former state Rep. Carl Domino, considered the leading Republican candidate to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, listed $42,087 in fundraising expenses during the first quarter of 2014 while collecting only $31,840 in contributions.

Domino adviser Larry Casey said this morning that the campaign mislabeled some of its expenditures.

“Our fault in descriptions…many of those items listed as fundraising were not fundraising,” Casey said in an e-mail. He said the campaign will amend its Federal Election Commission report.

Late in the day, the Domino camp filed an amended FEC report reclassifying many of the expenditures it previously described as being for fundraising. The campaign now says it spent only $10,492 in the quarter on fundraising.

Murphy raised $674,369 during the quarter and began April with $2.2 million in cash on hand for his re-election bid in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18.

Domino’s campaign spent a total of $68,301 between Jan. 1 and March 31, according to the latest Federal Election Commission report, with the majority of the expenditures specifically identified as being for “fundraising” in some way.


Murphy, Frankel cite ’77 cents’ statistic on women’s earnings; their staffs have bigger gender pay gaps

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by George Bennett

Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Lois Frankel

Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Lois Frankel joined President Barack Obama and other Democrats last week in promoting “Equal Pay Day” and its much-repeated statistic that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men are paid.

In Murphy’s and Frankel’s congressional offices, the gap between the average earnings of male and female staffers is even greater. Subscribers to can find more detail and context in this week’s Politics column.

A review of House records shows Murphy and Frankel provide similar pay to men and women who hold similar jobs. But women outnumber men in lower-paying jobs on both staffs, dragging down the overall female average compared to men.


Dems target Domino and Turnquest with web ads, robocalls blasting Ryan budget

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by George Bennett

With House Republicans expected to vote this week on Budget Chairman Paul Ryan‘s spending blueprint, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying for web ads and robocalls that single out two of the six Republicans running for the nationally targeted Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat of freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Former state Rep. Carl Domino and former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest are the targets of “Don’t Sell Out The Middle Class” web ads that launched last week and automated phone calls beginning today.


Murphy raises another $675,000, widens money advantage over potential GOP challengers

Friday, April 4th, 2014 by George Bennett

Freshman Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy began April with $2.2 million in his campaign account.

Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, raised more than $675,000 for his re-election bid in the first quarter of 2014, widening his money advantage over the Republicans vying to unseat him.

Murphy’s campaign says the incumbent began April with $2.2 million in cash on hand.

Republicans hold a slight registration edge in Murphy’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18. Six Republicans have opened campaigns for the seat, which the national GOP has called a top target. Former state Rep. Carl Domino of Jupiter has been the GOP money leader, raising $121,464 from contributors adding $275,000 of his own money through the end of December.

Domino told that he added another $150,000 of his own money during the quarter that ended March 31 and raised less than that from contributors.

Former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest raised “significantly less” than Domino’s personal contribution during the first quarter, campaign manager Jacob Perry said.

Fundraising reports for the first quarter are due April 15.

‘Congressman who can count’? Blackjack player Schlesinger puts different spin on CPA Murphy slogan

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 by George Bennett

When Democrat Patrick Murphy ran for Congress in 2012 against Republican Rep. Allen West, he contrasted his experience as a Certified Public Accountant with West’s reputation for polarizing rhetoric.

“We need a few more people in Congress who can count, and a few less who divide,” Murphy said in one campaign ad.

Two years later, half a dozen Republicans are hoping to unseat freshman Rep. Murphy in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18. One of the Republican hopefuls is Alan Schlesinger, a former legislator and mayor in Connecticut who’s also a card counter at blackjack.

“Isn’t it about time we have a congressman who can count?” Schlesinger quipped last week.

Stories about Schlesinger’s gambling caused some problems for his 2006 campaign for Senate in Connecticut. Subscribers to can read Schlesinger’s explanation in this week’s Politics column.

Obama to speak on economy in Orlando, raise money at Alonzo Mourning’s house in Miami

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 by George Bennett

President Barack Obama will speak about the economy on Thursday afternoon at Valencia College in Orlando, then head to Miami for fundraisers that include a $16,200-a-head Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee event at the home of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, helped organize the DCCC fundraiser, which will also feature House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

The event’s $16,200 price tag includes a cocktail reception, photo opportunity and dinner.

Obama also visited Mourning’s house for a 2010 fundraiser for the DCCC and former Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, plans to attend the Thursday fundraiser but Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, do not.

Good news for the St. Lucie Estuary

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Christine Stapleton

Good news for the St. Lucie Estuary came from Washington today: Deep in the 2015 budget proposed by President Obama is a line-item in the budget for the Army Corps of engineers that sets aside about $35 million for the C-44 Project.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy announced the proposed funding at a press conference this afternoon.

U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy holds up sample of contaminated water during a Senate Select Committee Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin Hearing at the Charles and Rae Kane center in Stuart on August 22, 2013. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

“This isn’t a guarantee that the full amount wil be there but it’s a really good indication,” Murphy said. “To get a line item – something specific in the Army Corps work plan is a big deal.”

The project in western Martin County got underway in 2011 is intended to clean runoff before sending it to the St. Lucie Estuary. The Corps is responsible for building the $225 million-plus project, which includes a 3,400-acre reservoir. The completion date is 2020.

Water quality and quantity in the C-44 Canal – which runs from Lake Okeechobee to the coast – grabbed headlines last summer when record-setting rains forced the Army Corps to release water from the lake to prevent a breach in its ailing dike. The water from the lake coupled with runoff from local roads, farms and yards, caused an ecological disaster in the estuary.

The ecological crisis turned political in August when Gov. Rick Scott, fed up with the Corps’ pace on the project, announced that rather than waiting for the corps to come up with $30 million for its share of the project, Florida will pay the entire cost.

However, just because the $35 million line item is in the President’s budget does not mean the money is guaranteed, Murphy said. The budget must now make its way through committees during  budget appropriation process, Murphy added.

GOP congressional hopeful Ellen Andel, endorsed by Allen West, drops out of race for Murphy seat

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 by George Bennett

Ellen Andel speaks at recent GOP candidates forum.

The candidate endorsed by former U.S. Rep. Allen West for a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional seat is dropping out of the race.

Juno Beach Councilwoman Ellen Andel snagged West’s endorsement last year in her pursuit of the Republican nomination to challenge freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. Murphy defeated West in a close and expensive 2012 race.

In a statement this afternoon, Andel said: “After much thought and discussion with my family, I have decided to end my run for Congress. The stress on my family has become more than I am willing to accept, and their health and happiness are my first and foremost priorities. I have a deep gratitude for all those who have believed in me and supported me. You will remain in my thoughts as I continue to advocate for a better future for our children and grandchildren.”

While West was a prolific money-raiser in his campaigns, his backing didn’t boost Andel’s fundraising. She collected only $45,532 through Dec. 31 and began 2014 with $5,537 in her campaign account. Murphy has raised $2.1 million and began the year with nearly $1.8 million cash on hand.

With Andel’s departure, the GOP field still includes former state Rep. Carl Domino, former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest, former Connecticut lawmaker Alan Schlesinger and Jupiter nurse Beverly Hires.

Rival consultant blasts Murphy jobs brochure as ‘campaign piece’

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by George Bennett

Murphy's brochure

A 60-page pamphlet distributed by the office of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, was blasted by potential Republican rival Carl Domino‘s consultant as campaign advertising.

“This is an out-and-out campaign piece and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Domino adviser Larry Casey said after seeing Murphy’s glossy brochure titled “A Plan For Jobs.”

About 500 of the booklets were printed at a cost of $2 apiece, Murphy Chief of Staff and campaign strategist Eric Johnson said. The money comes out of Murphy’s congressional office budget allotment, Johnson said, and the content of the pamphlet was reviewed and approved by the bipartisan House Franking Commission.

Obama campaign logo

Casey is a former congressional aide who worked most recently for the late Republican Rep. Clay Shaw. He said the Franking Commission has changed since Shaw left office in 2007. But Johnson, a Capitol Hill aide since 1997, contended Murphy’s booklet is similar to materials that Shaw and other members of Congress sent to constituents over the years. Johnson also compared Murphy’s brochure to taxpayer-financed newsletters that Domino sent as a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

Rep. Steny Hoyer's "Make It In America" logo

“Congressman Murphy takes communication with his constituents very seriously and the booklet is a very important part of that. This is his plan for jobs and people need to be able to see that,” Johnson said.

Casey also likened the circular stars-and-stripes symbol on the cover of Murphy’s booklet to President Obama’s campaign logo.

Said Johson: “It’s an American flag and I’m surpised they have an issue with that.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy pitches tax, regulatory relief to business groups

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by George Bennett

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, speaking to business leaders at Gardens Mall this morning.

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, pitched tax breaks, regulatory relief and other measures to stimulate job growth during a morning meeting with business leaders from Palm Beach and Martin counties.

“Today is all about working together,” Murphy told more than 100 people at an event organized by the Economic Council of Palm Beach County and the Economic Council of Martin County at Gardens Mall.

A Democrat who narrowly won in a Republican-leaning district that includes northern Palm Beach County and all of Martin and St. Lucie counties, Murphy sounded several GOP-friendly themes during his remarks.

“I know there are many concerns with our government being too big, and I agree,” Murphy said. “Government doesn’t create jobs, but government does have a responsibility to create an environment that is conducive to job growth.”

Murphy also commended U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, for his work to combat citrus greening. Rooney’s brother, state Rep. Pat Rooney Jr., R-West Palm Beach, was in the audience.

Murphy’s office distributed a 60-page “Plan For Jobs” highlighting Murphy’s past positions and some new initiatives.

Murphy’s plan includes a call for speeding up tax write-offs businesses take for depreciation on capital investments and shielding smaller community banks from “burdensome regulations designed for large banks.” He also mentioned corporate income tax rates and has voiced support for lowering them in exchange for closing business tax loopholes.

Murphy also called for expanding federal programs to help veterans get job training, incentives for businesses to hire veterans and Small Business Administration loans to veteran-owned businesses.

Murphy didn’t mention the Affordable Care Act, which many businesses have criticized.

Murphy has opposed repealing the health care law, but voted last year to delay implementation of its individual and business insurance mandates.

“My focus is legislation that will improve the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy said in an interview after the event. “It’s not going to be repealed. It’s there, so let’s focus on getting it right.”

No public meeting between Nancy Pelosi and Patrick Murphy, but her fundraiser will help him

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by George Bennett

Murphy and Pelosi in 2012 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi once showed off freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, to the Washington media, declaring that Murphy’s 2012 defeat of Republican Allen West “sends a message to a new generation of Americans that their voices will be heard at the table.”

But when Pelosi visited Palm Beach County last week for a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches speech and a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Murphy was miles away. A public appearance with liberal Pelosi probably wouldn’t help Murphy in a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast district that leans slightly Republican. But the DCCC money Pelosi raised will help Murphy and other Democratic House candidates.

Subscribers to can read more about it in this week’s Politics column.

Murphy ranks 9th among House Dems for voting against Obama, CQ says

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by George Bennett

Vote analysis from Congressional Quarterly

Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, voted against President Barack Obama‘s position 43 percent of the time in 2013 — the ninth highest percentage among House Democrats, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly.

Murphy represents a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional district in which Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats and voters sided with Republican Mitt Romney over Obama in 2012.

Another swing-district Florida Democrat, Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami, ranked just behind Murphy in the CQ analysis, voting against Obama 42.9 percent of the time. The least-loyal House Democrat was Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, who opposed Obama 72.1 percent of the time in 2013.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted for Obama’s position 100 percent of the time in 2013. He’s one of 17 Dems who didn’t break with the president on a single vote last year.

Fundraising for Republicans hoping to oust Murphy lags behind other successful challengers

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 by George Bennett

The combined 2013 fundraising of GOP candidates (from left) Domino, Andel, Schlesigner and Turnquest was about one-fifth of Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy's total.

With $116,938 from contributors and another $279,527 of his own money invested in his congressional bid as of Dec. 31, former state Rep. Carl Domino is the top money-raiser among Republicans who have filed for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Murphy raised $2.6 million through Dec. 31, which may make him the top Democratic money-raiser in the House this year.

Even setting aside Murphy’s prodigious fundraising, the money raised by Domino and other Republican candidates in District 18 should set off warning bells for the GOP in a race the party has billed as a top national priority. Recent history shows Domino and the GOP field are lagging behind the fundraising of other challengers who unseated congressional incumbents in Palm Beach County districts.

Since 2006, five members of Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation have lost their seats — Republican Reps. Clay Shaw and Mark Foley in 2006 (Foley resigned before the election, but his name remained on the ballot), Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney in 2008, Democratic Rep. Ron Klein in 2010 and Republican Rep. Allen West in 2012.

In each of those cases, the winning challenger had raised more money from contributors by Dec. 31 of the year before the election than Domino has raised. Even when his substantial personal contribution is added in, Domino lags behind four of the five successful challengers in total fundraising.

Subscribers to can read more about it in this week’s Politics column. Short-term passes are available for as little as 99 cents a day.

With Hasner passing up run for Murphy seat, GOP field appears set in congressional race

Monday, January 27th, 2014 by George Bennett

Hasner, once courted by National Republican Congressional Committee, passes up District 18 race.

Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner confirmed over the weekend that he’s not running for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat held by nationally targeted freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

Subscribers to can read more about it by clicking here.

One immediate result of Hasner’s decision: Tallahassee-based Republican strategist Rick Wilson, a Hasner friend who worked on Hasner’s failed U.S. Senate bid in 2011 and 2012, will work on former Tequesta Councilman Calvin Turnquest‘s campaign.

Potential Hasner contributors who were on the sidelines might now give to one of the other GOP candidates in the District 18 race. The other GOP hopefuls include Turnquest, former state Rep. Carl Domino, Juno Beach Councilwoman Ellen Andel and former Connecticut legislator Alan Schlesinger. None of Murphy’s would-be Republican challengers has been an impressive fundraiser so far. Federal Election Commission reports covering the last quarter of 2014 are due Friday.

Potential GOP challengers to Rep. Patrick Murphy meet in West Palm Beach today

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Six Republicans vying for the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast seat of freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, are expected to attend a Republican Club of the Palm Beaches candidate forum in West Palm Beach today.

Follow and @gbennettpost on Twitter for updates from the event, which is scheduled to begin at noon.

Since narrowly defeating former Rep. Allen West in 2012 in a district that leans slightly Republican, Democrat Murphy has been identified as a top target by national Republicans. But the Republicans who have opened campaigns for the District 18 seat do not appear to have gained much traction with contributors while Murphy has amassed a warchest of more than $1.5 million.

Republicans expected at today’s forum are Juno Beach Councilwoman Ellen Andel, former state Rep. Carl Domino of Jupiter, former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest, former Connecticut legislator Alan Schlesinger, Tequesta resident and former state House write-in candidate Beverly Hires and Ilya Katz, who ran as a no-party challenger against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2012 and says he intends to run in District 18 this year.

Rare chance for voters to fill circuit judgeship; Dem turnout strategy; Biden factor in Gardens

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by George Bennett

Frank Biden, brother of Vice President Joe Biden, at a recent Palm Beach Gardens council meeting. He's helping one of the candidates in the city's March elections.

Judge Brown

Circuit judge is an elected position, but 24 of the 35 circuit judges in Palm Beach County first got on the bench via gubernatorial appointment. Once in office, sitting judges are rarely challenged. So Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown‘s announcement that she’s retiring at the end of her term sets up a rare open election for a judgeship.

Subscribers to can read about who’s running and who else might get in the judicial race in this week’s Politics column. One-day passes are available for as little as 99 cents.

Also in this week’s column:

** How Palm Beach County Democrats hope to achieve their goal of a 100,000-vote margin in November’s election for governor.

** The latest fundraising estimate for Republican Carl Domino in the nationally watched congressional race for the seat of freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.

** How vice presidential brother Frank Biden, an Ocean Ridge resident, could be a factor in the March election in Palm Beach Gardens.

** Which Palm Beach County donor recently joined the $1 million club in supporting Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s re-election.

Frankel breaks with other local House members and votes against budget deal

Friday, December 13th, 2013 by George Bennett

Concerns about Medicare, military pensions and unemployment insurance led Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, to vote no on budget deal.,

A bipartisan budget deal passed the House by a lopsided 332-to-94 margin on Thursday with three members of Palm Beach County’s delegation — Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton; Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar; and Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter — joining the majority. Former Palm Beach County delegation member Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, also supported the deal.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, voted no, joining a coalition of liberals (including Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Jan Schakowsky of Illiniois) and tea party conservatives (including Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Raul Labrador of Idaho) in opposition.

Said Frankel: “This budget deal is better than the status quo and it’s good to see bipartisan cooperation. With that said, because of the cuts to Medicare, reduction to military retirement payments and leaving millions of Americans desperate without any source of income because of failure to renew unemployment insurance, I voted no.”

Democrat Murphy highlights centrist themes in talk at business breakfast

Friday, December 6th, 2013 by George Bennett

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, speaks at Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches breakfast.

WEST PALM BEACH — Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, played up his centrist credentials at a business breakfast this morning, giving a speech that even Palm Beach County Republican Chairwoman Anita Mitchell didn’t criticize.

Murphy said the lack of productivity in the GOP-led House is “an embarrassment,” but he also spread the blame around during a Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches breakfast.

“I believe it’s leadership that needs to get shaken up a bit in Congress, and that’s on both sides of the aisle,” Murphy said.


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