Patrick Murphy Used Saudi Donor Network to Gain Favor With Florida Democrats

Money flowed to Democrats after Murphy’s decision to launch political career

Patrick Murphy
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Fla.) / AP
October 20, 2016

Florida Democrat Patrick Murphy’s political coordination with a wealthy Saudi Arabian who has been accused of orchestrating an illegal straw donor scheme to support Murphy began prior to Murphy’s official entrance into politics.

Murphy has known Ibrahim al-Rashid, the son of a Saudi billionaire, since they were classmates at a private New Jersey prep school. Al-Rashid was one of Murphy’s largest donors when he announced his 2011 congressional run, contributing thousands directly to his campaign and more to super PACs supporting him.

Murphy was forced to give up $16,000 of al-Rashid's donations after al-Rashid was found guilty of beating his wife, Morgan Budman, who worked on Murphy’s first campaign.

Campaign finance records indicate that Murphy and al-Rashid made political donations in tandem as part of an effort to gain favor with prominent Florida Democrats whose support Murphy needed to launch his political career.

The large donations to Florida Democrats occurred early in 2011 after Murphy hired a political consultant to map out a congressional run.

On January 20 and January 21, 2011, Murphy and his father each contributed $2,400 to Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.). Budman, al-Rashid's wife, made an identical $2,400 contribution to Nelson on January 20, with "homemaker" listed as her occupation on the report.

A week later, on January 27, Murphy and his father each contributed $4,800 to Florida Rep. Ted Deutch (D.). Al-Rashid and Budman made identical $4,800 contributions to Deutch that day.

The following week, on February 2, Murphy contributed $4,800 to Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D.). Al-Rashid and Budman also donated the maximum to Wasserman Schultz that day.

Wasserman Schultz benefited from additional $2,400 contributions from al-Rashid’s two brothers, Mohammed al-Rashid of Los Angeles, California, and Salman al-Rashid of Austin, Texas.

In a single week in February, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee received $30,000 from Ibraham al-Rashid, $3,500 from Mohammed al-Rashid, $2,500 from Salmon al-Rashid, and $2,000 from Murphy.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which filed the straw donor complaint that is now being reviewed by the Federal Election Committee, said in a statement to the Free Beacon that the coordinated donations are further evidence that Murphy was aware of al-Rashid’s straw donor operation.

"Patrick Murphy may try and separate himself from the apparent straw donor scheme that helped launch his political career, but this new revelation seems to show he was 100 percent involved with that political money laundering scam," said Ian Prior, a spokesman for the group.

The complaint laid out evidence that a network of donors was contributing the maximum allowed amount of money to both Murphy and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D.) on behalf of al-Rashid.

Al-Rashid is the son of a Saudi Arabian billionaire who has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.

The complaint identified a number of donors in Pennsylvania who were related to al-Rashid through Budman who made large contributions to Murphy and Crist on nearly identical dates as al-Rashid himself.

The complaint also pointed out large contributions to Murphy and Crist from a woman who was listed as a "property manager" but has since been identified as Ibrahim al-Rashid’s "cleaning lady."

Murphy’s spending to law firms that specialize in congressional investigations spiked following the FEC complaint, though the exact reason for the increase remains unclear.

Budman left al-Rashid in February 2014 after she told police that he "grabbed her by the wrist, struck her about the head and face with a closed fist then threw her to the ground" during an altercation at their Miami home.

The Murphy campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the donations. Attempts to reach Budman and members of her family were unsuccessful.

Murphy has attempted to distance himself from al-Rashid since his assault on Budman.

"There is no excuse for domestic violence," Murphy said earlier this year. "Both Morgan and Ibrahim have been long time friends and supporters of mine. Morgan even worked on my first campaign."

"This incident is personal for me," Murphy said. "I was heartbroken when I found out, and I condemn Ibrahim’s inexcusable actions. Over the past year I have prayed for Morgan and her family to find healing."

Republicans have called on Murphy to donate $100,000 to charities that address domestic violence to offset the money that al-Rashid gave to liberal super PACs that support him.