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FEC reviews fraud complaint over donations to Patrick Murphy campaign in 2011

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The country’s top election watchdog group is reviewing campaign donations to Congressman Patrick Murphy‘s House campaign made five years ago.

The Hill is reporting the Federal Election Commission will be taking under review a complaint filed against Florida’s newly chosen Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, which claims the Jupiter Democrat accepted potentially illegal contributions in 2011.

In July, the FEC notified Murphy was that complaint — from the Republican-led super PAC Senate Leadership Fund — was “a matter under review.”

According to the Hill, the allegations are that Ibrahim Al-Rashid, a childhood friend of Murphy’s, donated beyond contribution limits by using names of employees and family members as “straw donors.” The contributions totaled about $24,000.

Ibrahim, named in the complaint with his brother Ramzi, are the sons of a politically influential Saudi billionaire. Ibrahim Al-Rashid has given as much as $400,000 to both Murphy’s campaign and outside groups supporting Murphy since his first run for Congress in 2012.

One of the disputed straw donor payments was a $300 donation from a woman who listed on the FEC form an occupation has “property manager” for Texas-based Limestone Property Management, which records show is managed by Ramzi Al-Rashid.

In another contribution listed on the complaint, a donation of $1,200 to then-Senate candidate Charlie Crist, the same woman noted on the FEC form she is an “owner” of Limestone Property Management.

In fact, the Hill noted, she doesn’t actually work there. The woman was a Miami resident at the time, working as a “cleaning lady” for Ibrahim Al-Rashid. FEC records show the woman made no other campaign contribution before those to Murphy and Crist.

Murphy campaign representative Joshua Karp calls the straw donor complaint “frivolous and unfounded.” He added that a recent spike in legal fees related to the campaign were not a result of the complaints.

FEC records show that between July 6 and Aug. 4, Murphy’s campaign spent $52,805 in legal fees to two law firms, an amount The Hill says is 1,500 percent higher than the average amount spent in the previous 16 months.

One of the legal firms, Miller & Chevalier based in Washington D.C., is well-known for its work defending politicians accused of congressional ethics violations.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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