February 4, 2016

Did Patrick Murphy’s Pay-to-Play Vote Cost Him RFK Jr. Endorsement?

Prominent environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr. endorsed liberal insurgent Alan Grayson over establishment favorite Patrick Murphy in the Florida Democratic senate primary – a blow to Murphy, who has worked overtime to burnish his “green” credentials.

Both Kennedy’s endorsement itself, and the timing of it, may be ominous signs of continued problems with Murphy’s quest to re-brand himself as a liberal.

Why’s that? First, Kennedy’s endorsement came just days after Murphy’s Super PAC filed its report with the FEC. In addition to a hefty $200,000 check from Murphy’s own father, the Super PAC got a cool $100,000 from Michael Smith of Boulder, Colorado, who was already a maxed out donor to Murphy’s campaign. Who is Michael Smith? Smith is the CEO of Freeport LNG Development, which operates a liquefied natural gas facility in Freeport, Texas.

Why might the top executive at a natural gas company support a candidate who has positioned himself as a climate change warrior? A vote Murphy cast in 2014 may provide a clue.

On June 25, 2014, Murphy was one of only two Florida Democrats to vote for the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, which eased regulations on the LNG industry. The bill was vigorously opposed by liberal environmentalists and groups like the League of Conservation Voters – groups Murphy is courting in his senate bid.

Murphy has already come under fire for voting for legislation that benefitted other Super PAC donors. Murphy’s PAC received tens of thousands of dollars from big players in the EB-5 visa program after voting to ease regulations on the “visa-for-sale” industry.

Environmentalists like Kennedy likely have some tough questions for Murphy: Is he simply talking the “green” talk while voting the other way? Or was his vote a cynical pay-to-play bid for big checks for his Super PAC? Either way, Murphy has some explaining to do.