GOP wants Senate Dem candidate to donate $100K

GOP wants Senate Dem candidate to donate $100K
© Greg Nash

A leading Florida Democratic Senate candidate has donated more than $16,000 in campaign cash to domestic violence groups after receiving contributions from a longtime friend who pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife.

Republicans are seeking to make Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Fla.) relationship with major Democratic donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid an issue in a race that will help decide which party controls the Senate.

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Murphy has already returned all the campaign cash donated by Al-Rashid over the past three cycles, but Ian Prior, a spokesman for the Republican-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, says Murphy should donate all the money Al-Rashid gave to a pro-Murphy super-PAC in 2012 — two years before he pleaded guilty to the assault charge.

Prior notes that American Sunrise, the super-PAC Al-Rashid funded, ran a controversial ad that showed a cartoon version of Murphy’s then-opponent, Allen West, wearing boxing gloves and repeatedly punching women in the face to illustrate how he was hurting them with his votes on healthcare and other policies.

“[Murphy] should reach into his own pocket and donate an additional $100,000 that corresponds to what the American Sunrise super-PAC received and used to air an ad on his behalf that made light of domestic violence,” Prior said in a statement.

Murphy has made domestic violence a central issue of his since being elected to Congress in 2012, and he says he was “heartbroken” to learn what his friend and major donor had done. 

Al-Rashid, the son of a Saudi multimillionaire, pleaded guilty in 2014 to “simple assault” of his estranged wife, Morgan, who had served as Murphy’s finance
director in his first campaign for Congress. Al-Rashid received one year of probation.

“There is no excuse for domestic violence,” Murphy told The Hill in a statement. “Both Morgan and Ibrahim have been long time friends and supporters of mine. Morgan even worked on my first campaign.”

“This incident is personal for me,” he added. “I was heartbroken when I found out, and I condemn Ibrahim’s inexcusable actions. Over the past year I have prayed for Morgan and her family to find healing.”

The Murphy campaign has, over the past two years, donated $16,400 to charities that deal with domestic violence and female empowerment — almost $1,000 more than Al-Rashid has provided to Murphy in campaign contributions.

Al-Rashid, who declined two requests to comment for this story, continued giving money to Murphy’s campaign after the assault, maxing out in the lead-up to the 2016 Florida Senate primaries.

But each time the money from Al-Rashid arrived, Murphy donated it, though with a lag of more than seven months for the most recent donations. The latest contributions were in November, when Murphy’s campaign made five donations totaling $10,400 to domestic violence and women’s support groups.

Murphy was a co-sponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in 2013.

“Domestic violence is not a private matter,” he wrote in a 2014 op-ed in U.S. News & World Report.

“It is a social problem, one that not only puts women at a disproportionate risk for severe bodily harm and more, but challenges the very well-being of our communities as a whole.”

Murphy is now in a contested Democratic primary against fellow Florida Rep. Alan GraysonAlan GraysonPennsylania Dems file ethics complaint against Rep. Barletta The Hill's 12:30 Report Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog MORE. The national party has thrown its support behind Murphy, who it sees as a stronger general election candidate.

Grayson himself fought 2014 allegations from his ex-wife that he shoved and injured her. Local authorities dismissed the charges after Grayson’s attorneys released a video purportedly showing that it was Grayson who was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his ex-wife, Lolita.  

“The video showed Lolita Grayson hitting Grayson, and Alan never hitting her,” said Grayson campaign spokesman David Damron in response to questions from The Hill.