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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Alan Grayson echoes conservatives, slams Patrick Murphy super PAC over donor with ties to visa program



U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, is attacking his Democratic opponent in Florida's U.S. Senate race over donations a pro-Patrick Murphy super PAC received from a wealthy donor who stands to benefit from legislation Murphy supported two years ago (but which he hasn't signed on to this session).

Grayson's swipe at the Jupiter congressman comes a day after Grayson himself took heat in the media when The New York Times delved deeper into Grayson's hedge fund management controversy, which the Tampa Bay Times has also reported on.

In a rarity, Grayson's attack on Murphy allies the progressive Democrat with a conservative super PAC, American Crossroads, which has been blasting Murphy on the same donor issue for weeks.

In its most recent campaign finance disclosure, "Floridians for a Strong Middle Class" -- which was established last spring to help Murphy's campaign for U.S. Senate -- reported a $50,000 donation from "230 East 63rd-6 Trust LLC" amid $500,000 in contributions it collected since July. (Murphy's father also donated $200,000 to the super PAC, records showed. Super PACs are not bound by contribution limits nor can they coordinate directly with the candidate.)

As the Herald/Times previously reported, Florida business registration filings show the trust company is an "inactive" business venture associated with Nicholas Mastroianni II. Mastroianni developed the $150 million Harbourside project in Murphy's home city of Jupiter in Palm Beach County. Mastroianni's son, Anthony, also gave $5,000 to the super PAC, the filing showed.

Fortune two years ago profiled Nicholas Mastroianni as someone who benefits from the EB-5 visa program, which the magazine said "essentially allows wealthy foreigners to buy U.S. citizenship by investing $500,000 in a project that creates U.S. jobs."

In 2014, Murphy was one of seven co-sponsors on a bill that would have made the EB-5 program permanent, but the bill died in committee. 

“The bills that Murphy sponsors appear to carry price tags,” Grayson spokesman David Damron said in the campaign statement today. “Patrick’s Daddy PAC should return these deceptive LLC donations. They have the look of someone trying to hide a pay to play scheme.”

It's unclear how Mastroianni's latest donations equate to "pay to play," though, because Murphy has not co-sponsored a similar measure introduced during this session of Congress.

The EB-5 visa program has been reauthorized for two decades, with bipartisan support. The permanent extension of it was also included in 2013 immigration reform legislation, which both Murphy and Grayson supported.

Grayson and Murphy are battling it out for the August Democratic primary in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Grayson has drawn passionate support from grassroots progressive donors, while Murphy has the backing of the party establishment. Murphy has so far out-fundraised not only Grayson but also each of the four major candidates in the Republican primary.

[Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2016 12:56pm]


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