Report: FBI Investigating Alleged Illegal Donor Scheme Tied To Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy
Patrick Murphy / AP
November 2, 2016

The FBI has launched an investigation into an alleged illegal donation scheme involving a wealthy Saudi family that backs Florida Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, the Hill reported Wednesday.

There is no known evidence that shows Murphy was aware of or involved in the alleged scheme, the Hill noted.

Murphy's campaign said that neither he nor other staffers were being formally investigated but would not comment further. It did add that a conservative super PAC earlier this year filed a complaint on the issue that the FBI is now probing.

The investigation is tied to Murphy's first run for the House back in 2012 and his high school friend, Ibrahim Al-Rashid, a prominent political donor, the Hill reported.

The allegation–originally submitted by a Republican super PAC run by a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.)–is that Murphy's high school friend and major political donor, Ibrahim Al-Rashid, coordinated a "straw donor" scheme to boost Murphy.

A straw donor scheme happens when a wealthy donor circumvents legal donation limits by funneling additional money into a campaign under other people's names. It is illegal to agree to be one of the people named giving someone else's money.

The FBI needs to prove that Al-Rashid reimbursed donors without their permission for charges to stick.

Al-Rashid is the son of a politically connected Saudi billionaire and has given almost $400,000 to Murphy's campaigns and outside groups supporting him.

The Republican group pushing the FBI probe said that "inconsistent and changing employer and occupation information listed for some of these contributors suggests that some may not have been aware that they made the reported contributions."

The Hill gave an example of one donation in the alleged scheme.

A woman who describes herself in federal donation reports as the "owner" and "property manager" of a Texas-based company, Limestone Property Management, gave Murphy's campaign $300.

But she is neither the property manager nor the owner of the Texas-based company. In fact, she doesn't work there.

She lived in Miami at the time and was Ibrahim Al-Rashid's "cleaning lady," according to a Miami-Dade Police Department report filed in 2012 over a home burglary at Al-Rashid's property.

The donations under investigation came in 2011, during the early phases of Murphy's first campaign for Florida's 18th District.

The FBI declined to comment about its investigation. The bureau also tends to avoid taking actions "within the period before elections" so that they don't influence the outcomes, the Hill noted.

Murphy is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is currently ahead in many polls by a comfortable margin going into Nov. 8.