Why Isn't Senate Candidate Patrick Murphy Under Investigation?

Why Isn't Senate Candidate Patrick Murphy Under Investigation?

EB-5 Visa, EB5 Visa, EB-5 Investment

It's perfectly understandable that the House Committee on Ethics would investigate U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for his double life as hedge fund manager and U.S. congressman. That I get.

What I don't get is why there's no investigation -- indeed, not the slightest trace of vetting -- of Grayson's opponent in the Florida Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, Congressman Patrick Murphy. 

Murphy's potential campaign violations -- of the quid-pro-quo variety -- are of just as serious an ethical nature as Grayson's; in fact, they are potentially worse.

With Grayson, emails and marketing documents obtained by The New York Times show the extent to which the roles of this multimillionaire congressman as a hedge fund manager and a member of Congress were intertwined, and how he promoted his international travels, some with congressional delegations, to solicit business. 

I Beg to DifferWith Murphy, there is what appears to be an insidious triangle of "enrichment" involving Murphy himself, a pair of businessmen, Nicholas Mastroianni II and Jeffrey Berkowitz, and the Murphy family business, Coastal Construction of Miami.

Here's what we know:

Murphy’s Super PAC is propped up by donations from his dad, Tom Murphy, principal of Coastal Construction. In fact, the latest was a $200,000 donation. We've written about that before. 

What few people are looking at is the more interesting donation of $50,000 from “230 East 63rd-6 Trust LLC.” That trust is associated with Mastroianni, who has also donated more than $16,000 to Murphy’s campaigns. (Note: Mastroianni’s family also has donated significant amounts to Murphy.)

Mastroianni is, as we've come to understand, a complicated fellow. His questionable business dealings and frequent run-ins with the law are well documented in the Fortune article, “The tangled past of the hottest money-raiser in America’s visa-for-sale program.” Be sure you check the story out.

Here comes the possible quid pro quo authorities should be questioning: Mastroianni is also a big player in the EB-5 visa program, which allows wealthy foreigners a path to U.S. citizenship by investing $500,000 or more in things like construction projects. Specifically, Mastroianni runs a “regional center,” which pools EB-5 investors and “receive[s] administrative fees from the investors and a percentage of what they raise from the developers; on large projects, that can quickly add up to millions.”

In fact, Mastroianni was sued for “failing to follow rules for the use of investment funds raised through the U.S. EB-5 program.”

Why is any of this noteworthy? Because Patrick Murphy was one of only seven co-sponsors of the EB-5 Regional Center Extension Act of 2014, a bill that would ease restrictions on EB-5 regional centers like the one Mastroianni runs.

The other Murphy campaign donor with a consummate interest in the EB-5 program, Jeffrey Berkowitz, just happens to run the Miami Metro EB-5 regional center and is the developer of SkyRise Miami Tower -- a project to be financed by EB-5 money.

Try to guess the name of the company that became the general contractor of SkyRise Miami after the project was approved Aug. 26, 2014. Go ahead, guess. If you said Coastal Construction, the company run by Patrick Murphy's father and sugar daddy of his PAC, and the company Patrick still has a significant stake in -- go to the head of the class.

To review: On Aug. 26, 2014 Murphy donor and EB-5 regional center head Jeffrey Berkowitz gets approval to build SkyRise Miami, a project to be funded by EB-5 money through his EB-5 regional center. It is also a project on which Patrick Murphy’s company Coastal Construction is the general contractor. Then, on Sept. 15, 2014, Murphy co-sponsors a bill to lift restrictions on EB-5 regional centers.

We're talking about a Murphy bill that would directly benefit the business of individuals who pour major donations into his campaign and Super PAC. And would benefit his own interests in the family business, Coastal Construction.

Senate Leadership Fund spokesman Ian Prior, who developed much of the research on Congressman Murphy's questionable connections, said, “It’s time that Patrick Murphy stops getting a free pass and starts answering questions about his shady Super PAC and campaign donors and whether he was improperly influenced by them.”

The Senate Leadership Fund describes itself as a non-profit, independent 527 political organization that "seeks to educate voters and empower citizens to hold lawmakers and office-seekers accountable for where they stand."

"Kind of makes you laugh," said Prior, pointing out that Patrick Murphy said recently in a Sun-Sentinel op-ed,  “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

I'll second that.




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