“Do as I say, not as I do,” seems to be the motto for Patrick Murphy‘s Senate campaign. The Democratic Congressman got caught yet again in a web of hypocrisy when it comes to SuperPAC support for his campaign.
Murphy’s been a vocal critic of Super PACs, which can support candidates but are prohibited by federal campaign finance law from coordinating with their campaigns. He’s called them “gross” and proudly touted his endorsement from End Citizens United, a liberal group opposed to the Supreme Court decision allowing Super PACs to participate in elections.
But as the Tampa Bay Times’ Alex Leary reported, a three page document is hidden deep within Murphy’s campaign website. The document contains the kind of information that campaigns routinely provide to surrogates, as well as to reporters as background information for articles: research about Murphy’s positions on issues and attacking fellow Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, Murphy’s competition in the Senate primary.
So why put it online in this odd, public-but-not-prominently-posted way? The answer: Super PACs.
Murphy can’t legally give this research directly to a Super PAC, but if he posts it publicly online, and the Super PAC “finds” it, then they’re free to use it.
Back in March, Leary caught Murphy engaged in similar shenanigans, this time with a video on his campaign website. Lots of campaigns share promotional videos, but this one was bizarrely silent, with nearly six minutes of soundless scenes of Murphy engaged in a wide range of activities, including walking with different people along a beach, wandering around some orange groves with an assortment of old men in hats, chatting with people in a diner, visiting some office workers, and so on.
The video wasn’t intended for the public, Leary notes, but instead was meant to be “b-roll” that Super PACs or other supporters could use to create positive ads for Murphy. Leary’s snarky headline summed up the story well: “Patrick Murphy: I hate Super PACs but here’s some video they can use.”
To further drive home the blatant outreach to the Super PACs, Murphy’s website even includes a helpful little button below the video that says “click here to download the full video,” leading to a zip file of the scintillating video in question.
Republican groups America Rising and the Senate Leadership Fund took advantage of that easy download button, reposting a two-and-a-half-minute clip of Murphy’s video after adding “pop-up video” captions mercilessly mocking him.
Murphy’s hypocrisy about Super PACs is especially rich when you look at the campaign finance records for Floridians for a Strong Middle Class, a Super PAC formed last year to support Murphy’s campaign.
Out of the PAC’s $965,050 in contributions, $200,000 came from Thomas P. Murphy, Jr., the Congressman’s father, and $300,000 from Coastal Construction Group, his father’s company.
This isn’t anything new. Daddy has poured money into Super PACs supporting Murphy’s House campaigns for years, and Murphy was all-too-happy to accept the help. House Majority PAC, a multi-million dollar Democratic group dedicated to helping elect Democrats in Republican-held seats, received $4,600 in “in kind catering and staff services” from the elder Murphy during the 2014 race, and a whopping $300,000 donation in 2012. That’s over $800,000 alone to just two Super PACs in five years.
Patrick Murphy’s dad, willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to get his kid a job.
Earlier this year, Murphy ducked Leary’s questions about the video he’d been so nice to post on his website for his Super PAC friends:
“Of course I’m going to have videos and pictures on my website,” he said in an interview earlier this year. When told it appeared to be an invite for an outside group, he flatly responded, “It’s just a video.”
This week was more of the same, as Murphy’s campaign didn’t directly respond to Leary’s requests for an explanation about the research document either, with Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen replying after Leary’s second attempt, “Our website is full of information for voters and supporters to learn more about why Patrick is the best candidate for Florida’s middle class.”
Of course, Democrats aren’t the only ones who take advantage of the law’s gigantic loophole in order to provide content for their Super PACs. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell found himself the unwitting subject of countless #McConnelling memes after his campaign posted a delightfully awkward b-roll video during the 2014 race. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart had a marvelous time playing McConnell video clips edited with new background music.
The obvious difference between McConnell and Murphy is that Mitch McConnell isn’t calling for Super PACs to be outlawed. Neither man is violating the law, but Murphy’s the only one who’s being a hypocrite.
Murphy says that Super PACs are “gross” and claims he’d support legislation to eliminate them, but until then, he’s perfectly willing to have his campaign leave free goodies for them on the internet and have his dad write checks larger than many Floridians’ mortgages to fund them.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.