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PolitiFact Fl Checks Up On Patrick Murphy's Resume; Social Security Stance

This ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee gets a "Mostly False" rating from PolitiFact Florida
National Republican Senatorial Committee advertisment
This ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee gets a "Mostly False" rating from PolitiFact Florida

The battle of the airwaves is heating up in the race for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. So WUSF's Steve Newborn talks with PolitiFact Florida's Josh Gillin to look at two claims lobbed by a Republican lobbying committee against Democrat Patrick Murphy.

The battle for the U.S. Senate is heating up, with Florida considered one of the few "toss-up" states that could decide the fate of the Senate in November. So the battle over the airwaves is starting. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is pushing incumbent Marco Rubio, and it's tossing an advertisement at Democrat Patrick Murphy.

The NRSC’s TV ad  begins with a video clip of Murphy saying in 2012, "I believe that my background as a CPA and a small business owner is exactly what we need."

The narrator then reads lines from a CBS4 Miami report and says, "Never worked as a CPA," and "Never a small business owner."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Murphy did work as a CPA. But he first held a lesser title and then worked as a CPA for less than a year.

Murphy started at Deloitte in Miami 2007 as an "audit assistant."  He applied for his CPA license from Colorado in 2009; at the time Colorado required fewer semester credits than Florida. After he obtained the license in September 2009, he was promoted to "audit senior." He left in May 2010.

To get the license, Murphy took a test through the state of Vermont. (The exam is the same everywhere, so he didn’t have to travel to Vermont to take it.)

CBS4 reported that Murphy "never worked a day in his life as a Certified Public Accountant." This is a matter of semantics: He did work while a CPA for several months at Deloitte, but he worked in Florida while holding a Colorado CPA license.

Gary McGill, director of the Fisher School of Accounting at the University of Florida, previously told PolitiFact Florida that Murphy’s path -- starting as an audit assistant at Deloitte, taking the CPA test and getting licensed in another state and then being promoted -- would have been common.

Murphy was a small business owner. But the business was owned by multiple people and grew out of a business owned by his father. The business was Coastal Environmental Services, a company formed to clean up the Gulf oil spill. Ultimately the firm only did work in the Gulf for a few months.

In 2010, Murphy, his father Thomas P. Murphy Jr. and Dan Whiteman incorporated Coastal Environmental Services. The elder Murphy owns the affiliated Coastal Construction, and Whiteman was listed as the president of both firms.

Annual reports show Patrick Murphy was a directorin 2011 and 2012. Once elected to Congress, he remained an owner but no longer a director.

State records don’t show if someone is an "owner," and Murphy hasn’t said if he financed the firm.

In both cases, the word "never" is too extreme to characterize Murphy’s work experience. However, in both cases we are talking about Murphy working for brief periods of time. Murphy may be overselling his resume, but the ad also exaggerates when it says "never."

We rate this claim Mostly False.

Also, the NRSC says Murphy advocated for "cuts to Social Security and Medicare." And to back up their claim, they cite his interview with CNN back in 2013.


Here's PolitFact Florida's ruling on this:

The NRSC told PolitiFact Florida that Murphy had said as much in a CNN interview on Jan. 2, 2013 — the day before he started his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield asked Murphy what he was prepared to do to find common ground in a partisan Congress that had begrudgingly reached a compromise over budget negotiations — a situation usually referred to as the "fiscal cliff." The House had passed a bipartisan agreement on Jan. 1 that fended off big income tax increases on most Americans and prevented huge cuts in defense spending and other programs.

In the interview, Murphy said he wanted to help the House make "big choices" to move ahead without similar battles in the future. When Banfield asked him what those choices were, he said he didn’t think Congress should continue to delay action on passing a budget or shoring up benefits programs.

"Unfortunately, we have to look at cuts across the board," he said. "We're going to have to look at defense. We're going to have to look at some structural changes to some programs like Social Security and Medicare."

He went on to say he wanted to eliminate "fraud, waste and abuse." He said he thought his CPA training would be helpful in going through the budget to find the best places to cut. Later in the interview, Banfield asked Murphy if he would break away from his party on any issue during negotiations, and where he thought Congress could make "painful cuts" if needed.

"You know, I think we're going to have to make some structural changes to programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid," he answered. "We're going to have to make sure they're sustainable for years to come."

But in full context, Murphy said "structural changes," which is not the same as cuts. We couldn’t find any clear evidence that Murphy had voted for or advanced any legislation that would have cut the programs.

His campaign told us Murphy was referring to raising the taxable income limit for the payroll tax, and allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices.

There are some examples of Murphy wanting to prevent cuts to the programs.

On Murphy’s 2012 campaign website — archived on the Wayback Machine — he vowed to protect both Social Security and Medicare. He said he would fight attempts to privatize Social Security and cut the program, and oppose moving Medicare patients to the open market.

Three weeks after joining the House, Murphy offered a motion to change a debt ceiling bill in order to prevent future benefit changes for seniors and veterans. The failed motion sought to keep Congress from changing Medicare to a voucher plan and privatizing Social Security in 2014 budget negotiations. He subsequently made similar actions through his term, although many of them failed in the Republican-led House.

In August 2014, Murphy spoke out about increasing the taxable income limit for the payroll tax, which was $117,000. Income above that threshold is not subject to the payroll tax that funds Social Security. Taxing income above that would bring more money into the program.

"If you’re going to be honest about addressing Social Security you have to, I think, take a broad approach to it and look at all options. That is the easiest option, raising that cap to a larger number," Murphy said.

He signed onto a bipartisan letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in March 2015, asking the agency to abandon proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage. CMS decided to increase Medicare Advantage payments instead.

We rate the statement False.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.