Patrick Murphy Campaign Spends Big on Luxury

Drops thousands on fine dining, luxury hotels

Patrick Murphy
Patrick Murphy / AP
August 26, 2016

Florida Senate candidate Patrick Murphy’s campaign has spent tens of thousands more than his opponents’ campaigns have on fine dining, luxury hotels, and alcohol.

The Democratic congressman’s campaign has spent nearly $70,000 on food, alcohol, and lodging this year, according to FEC filings. Much of that money was spent at high-class establishments in cities such as Washington, D.C., New York City, and Beverly Hills, California.

By contrast, the campaign of Murphy’s primary opponent, Rep. Alan Grayson (D.), has spent no money on food or lodging, according to FEC filings. Murphy’s likely general election opponent, Sen. Marco Rubio (R.), spent $21,500 on catering and lodging at three-star hotels, although he did not file a finance report for the first quarter of 2016 because he had not entered the race. Rubio’s most luxurious expense was a $3,500 catering charge to Mise En Place, a "gastronomic tour de force" in Tampa, Florida with "reasonable" prices.

The Murphy campaign has spent the most on food not in Florida but in Washington, D.C. The campaign has spent roughly $10,000 on food in D.C. compared to $7,000 in Florida, $5,000 in New York, and $2,500 in California.

The campaign dropped several grand at French bistros in Washington, D.C. It spent over $2,500 at Bistro Bis, an "expense account bistro" for "celebrities and powerbrokers looking to dine in ... ambiance and luxury." Murphy is already well-acquainted with the bistro: pharmaceutical giants Novartis and Amgen hosted a fundraiser for him there in 2014. The campaign also spent $1,292 at Bistro Cacao, a converted townhouse near Union Station known for its intimate tables and "impressive cocktail and wine list."

Murphy’s campaign shelled out $1,185 at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab, a DuPont Circle chophouse that was started in Miami Beach, Florida, but now has locations in D.C., Las Vegas, and Chicago. Joe’s offers a side of hashed browns for $9.

The campaign spent $1,161 at Fiola, a "special occasion" Italian restaurant run by chef Fabio Trabocchi that the Washington Post described as "ecstasy in the capital."

The campaign also spent $650 at Barrel, a bourbon and "elixir" bar in D.C.’s gentrified Eastern Market. "The pastas, the pastries, and the meats were all really amazing," raved the Bitches Who Brunch website.

Other notable D.C. restaurants that appear on Murphy’s campaign filings include Del Frisco’s ($174), Osteria Morini ($48), and Bullfeather’s ($234), the Capitol Hill haunt that played a role in the intern sex scandal of Florida Republican Mark Foley. The FEC filings also show over $300 in purchases at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, a liquor store.

In New York City, the campaign patronized a number of high-class establishments, including Lupulo ($306), the Portuguese cervejaria where Michelin-garlanded chef George Mendes works his "humble sorcery," according to the New York Times. The campaign spent $215 at Maloney & Porcelli, a "Mad Men-ish" club that achieved red-hot popularity during the Clinton years for its crackling pork shank and offers a three-course wine dinner for 85 shells.

The campaign blew $739 at the Yale Club of New York (Murphy attended the University of Miami) and $265 at The Wayfarer, a seafood restaurant that "evokes the experience of an old gentlemen’s club with a touch of disco-era design."

The Wayfarer is located inside the five-star Quin Hotel, which boasts that it pampers "the world’s most discerning wanderers" in "modern opulence." The Murphy campaign spent $6,380 at The Quin, all told.

The campaign stayed at several other top-flight hotels in Manhattan, including the four-star Loews Regency ($432) and Fifty NYC ($357). The FEC filings show an additional $16,797 in payments to hotel booking websites, but do not specify the hotels that were chosen.

On the other coast, Murphy’s campaign spent $607 at Spago Beverly Hills, the Wolfgang Puck flagship with two Michelin stars and astronomical prices ("bring your banker," warns Zagat). It spent an additional $225 at Nic’s Beverly Hills, a martini lounge with a walk-in freezer called the VODBOX, where customers sample flights of vodka prepared by specially trained "Vodka Impresarios." It is unclear if the Murphy campaign paid for the VODBOX experience; it did not pay the requisite $250 for bottle service.

The expenses provide fuel for the narrative that Murphy, the son of real estate tycoon Thomas P. Murphy, Jr., leads a life of luxury. That narrative has already appeared in Republican advertisements attacking Murphy as "privileged Patrick." Grayson, Murphy’s primary opponent, has dubbed him "Bought-and-Paid-For Patrick" and tweeted cryptically that "very few candidates … know what it’s like to struggle."

The Washington Free Beacon has reported on Murphy’s frequent jaunts on his father’s 97-foot yacht, Cocktails. Local media outlets like CBS 4 Miami have also scrutinized Murphy, noting the significant financial and professional assistance he has received from his father.

Murphy is favored over Grayson in the primary election that will be held on Aug. 30. The Murphy campaign did not respond to a request for comment.