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Pro-Patrick Murphy 'Super PAC' triggers complaint with FEC

Published May 16, 2016

A conservative watchdog group wants the Federal Election Commission to investigate Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and a super PAC supporting him that's funded mostly by Murphy's father. The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust or FACT said it lodged an official complaint with the FEC in a letter dated Friday.

"Murphy's super PAC has been primarily funded by Murphy's own company and a family member with whom he has financial ties, which appears to be unlawful coordination between a candidate and his super PAC," the group wrote. The complaint is here.

Murphy's campaign declined to comment about the complaint Monday. It previously denied accusations of illegal coordination when the Times/Herald reported last month on Murphy's father's connections to the super PAC, called Floridians for a Strong Middle Class. Candidates are prohibited from coordinating with super PACS and often won't even acknowledge the existence of supportive super PACs for fear of that confirming allegations of coordination.

Floridians for a Strong Middle Class was formed in the spring of 2015, 38 days after Murphy declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio. Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter, has bemoaned the influence of super PACs in modern elections and part of his Senate campaign is emphasizing support for campaign finance reform. However, he has not disavowed the super PAC supporting him nor his father's financial contributions to it.

Through himself and his company, Coastal Construction Group, Thomas Murphy Jr. has given $500,000 to Floridians for a Strong Middle Class as of March 31. The donations accounted for more than half of the super PAC's income by that point.

The FEC could not confirm to the Times/Herald Monday afternoon that it had received FACT's complaint about Murphy. An FEC spokesman said that could mean either the agency has yet to receive the complaint or that it is still in the process of validating it to see if it's in proper form.

If the complaint is deemed valid, Murphy's campaign would be notified and given a chance to respond. Until a complaint is resolved, the FEC is required by law to keep its review confidential.