Congressman Patrick Murphy's Out-of-District Largesse
Around the State
Are Miami-Dade and Broward counties buying themselves another congressman? You have to ask yourself.
Look at the source of Patrick Murphy's re-election war chest after two quarters.
But he raked in $343,775 from approximtely 215 donors -- or about one-third of his total -- from friendly Miami-Dade and Broward.
(See the donor lists in attachments below.)
In fact, the lopsidedness grows even more stunning after a quick count-up, when you realize Murphy has more than twice as many actual donors from Miami-Dade and Broward than from his own constituency.
Miami native Murphy, a Republican until he switched parties in 2011, moved into the district to run against firebrand Allen West, a controversial Republican congressman embroiled in the musical chairs that followed redistricting. Neither candidate in 2012 had a close relationship with voters in newly drawn Congressional District 18, it was a hot, "featured" race on everybody's November playbook, so it's understandable if their contributions came primarily from outside, from anywhere and everywhere. Tom Rooney, who had represented the district previously, shifted west to District 17.
As tough as the fight was for Murphy, the upside for this newcomer was his ability to raise money against West. Democrats across the country came out of the woodwork, gave till it hurt, because his opponent was tea-party fav West, man with a king-size target on his back, man with $18.1 million in his fight fund. Murphy won a close race with only $3.6 million to play with -- less than one-fifth of West's money, but still a sizable haul for a 29-year-old accountant and political novice.
So, how come after 8 months in office, Murphy is still more reliant on donors from Miami-Dade and Broward counties? The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has included him on its top-priority 26-member “frontline” list -- that's code for "most vulnerable congressmen" -- and releases as many as a dozen panhandling, sky-is-falling emails on his behalf every month.
Does Murphy have any idea why his re-election campaign is so thin on constituent support, but so friended by donors from Miami-Dade and Broward, the South Florida area he moved from? Can he explain why grassroots don't seem to be growing in CD 18? More important, what do all these donors 100 miles to the south want from him?
Murphy's chief of staff didn't take kindly to the questions when I asked him Wednesday night. "It's common for congressmen to attract most of their money from outside the district," Eric Johnson told me in a phone call from Washington. "Allen West raised $20 million, all from outside." (Actually, it was $18.1 million.)
Sure, but as I said, both candidates in 2012 were new to Distict 18. Loyalty wasn't expected then. Besides, no point making comparisons to West now. He's long gone.
Johnson's main point was this: "We wouldn't define grassroots as financial contributions," he said. "Look at our Facebook, see the support he gets around the district. We know we have strong grassroots support."
OK, I get it. But it doesn't explain the Miami-Dade and Broward connection. Murphy's South Florida contributions look like the heavy load in the back of the campaign boat, grounding out on a sandbar. What's the deal here?
Am I the only one who finds it a little bothersome when a congressman is getting three times as much money from more than twice as many individual donors -- thanks to one particular district he doesn't represent, shouldn't have to thank post-election -- than he's getting from his own?
Johnson did not address the numbers differential.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.