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A guide to the attacks on Patrick Murphy’s resume
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman June 29, 2016

A PAC supporting Marco Rubio’s Republican Senate re-election unleashed attacks on Patrick Murphy’s background.

Florida First Project used quotes by CBS4 Miami’s Jim DeFede about Murphy’s experience as a businessman and Certified Public Accountant. Murphy "isn’t who he says he is," says the narrator in the web ad.

Murphy’s campaign disputed several claims in DeFede’s investigation. Time for PolitiFact Florida to weigh in.

We found that Murphy’s description of his past employment is based on actual circumstances, but at times he omits a full explanation. The ad uses the most damning quotes by DeFede without including some of the crucial details.

Murphy, of Jupiter, was first elected to Congress in 2012. He is running in the Democratic Senate primary where his main rival is U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

Here are a few claims in the ad:

"Patrick Murphy says he was a small business owner. First, it is now clear Murphy was not a small business owner."

In summary: By only citing these lines from the TV report, the ad omits that Murphy did have a leadership role at Coastal Environmental Services. But ownership of a private company is difficult to prove, so we have little to evaluate beyond the word of Murphy and the company president. There appears to have been multiple owners along with Murphy.

For years, Murphy called himself a "small business owner," but he was clear that it was affiliated with Coastal Construction, the firm of his father Thomas P. Murphy, Jr.

During a debate in 2012, Murphy said:

"I rejoined the family business, which is Coastal Construction and I decided to start a small affiliated company called Coastal Environmental and that was because of the BP Oil Spill. ... So I decided to start a small fleet of oil skimmers, put them to work in the Gulf of Mexico. That is a small business, and it's affiliated to a larger parent company."

Incorporation records in 2010 list Murphy being on the board of directors along with his father and Dan Whiteman, president of both firms. (Murphy is listed in records as Erin Murphy, his middle name.)

Annual reports show Murphy was a director in 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.

By "owner" Murphy presumably meant that he had an economic interest, said University of Florida corporate law professor Stuart Cohn.

"Records filed with the state do not require listing those who had such an economic interest, whether as a shareholder or otherwise," Cohn said. "So, it is not possible from the state records to determine who owned what economic interests and in what percentages."

The Murphy campaign shared an IRS document with PolitiFact Florida which showed that Murphy, his father and Whiteman were shareholders in 2010. (The campaign blacked out the percentage each owned, as well as the names of three additional shareholders.)

Whiteman told PolitiFact Florida that as vice president Murphy "managed the company’s affairs."

"It's typical for business partners to have multiple ventures together, so it’s not unusual for some of the owners of Coastal Construction to also be owners of Coastal Environmental," Whiteman said.

"Murphy said his company had contracts to clean up the Gulf oil spill. Neither Patrick Murphy nor Coastal Environmental Services were awarded a single contract to clean up oil in the Gulf."

Summary: Coastal Environmental didn’t get the contracts. The ad omits what the TV report explained, that another company, Crescent SR, got contracts in June and July 2010. Murphy started working with Crescent informally in June and Coastal bought out the firm in August.

The Tampa Bay Times reported in May that there were questions about whether Murphy exaggerated his claims that he spent six months in the Gulf leading cleanup efforts.

The Murphy campaign refused to provide to the Times the firm’s contracts.

"Patrick's company acquired two subcontracts to perform near-shore skimming operations in Louisiana," spokesman Joshua Karp wrote in an email to the Times in May. "Contracts to skim oil were all subcontracts originating with BP, who funded the skimming cleanup operation."

In 2015, Murphy told DeFede that he had secured "several" contracts.

The Murphy campaign ultimately agreed to show CBS4 the contracts as long as the station did not name the companies that hired Coastal or the dollar amounts.

The records showed contracts awarded in June and July 2010 between companies and an oil skimming company called Crescent SR, a Louisiana-based firm owned by Kenneth Taylor Beery. Coastal Environmental and Murphy were not mentioned in the two contracts.

On Aug. 9, 2010, Coastal Environmental services bought Crescent SR.

After working informally with Beery to develop the skimming operation, Murphy officially founded Coastal Environmental Services and assumed responsibility for the subcontracts held by Crescent SR, Karp told PolitiFact Florida.

Beery told CBS4 that he developed the concept with one boat, and when he was looking to buy a second boat he was introduced to Murphy. A team of engineers from Coastal worked on coming up with a new line of oil skimmers.

Beery later told Politico in a statement: "Patrick was a vital part of the management and success of our small business."

The number of months that Murphy worked in the Gulf is in dispute.

Murphy's bio says he spent "six months" but it depends on how you count it.

The campaign said that Murphy moved to Louisiana in May and started looking for cleanup opportunities. In June, he started working with Beery. He began cleanup in July, formed Coastal in July and ceased operations in "late September." Dispersants caused oil to sink, the Coast Guard called off oil skimming in October, and Murphy left that month.

So we get to six months if we start the clock ticking when he arrived in the Gulf and end it when he left. If we only count the months of the cleanup, it would be more like three.

"Murphy says he is a CPA. Murphy has never been a licensed CPA in Florida."

Summary: This one has some nuance. Murphy started at Deloitte in Miami 2007 as an "audit assistant." The ad omits that he did get his CPA license -- but in Colorado. He could not sign off on audits in Florida since he didn’t have his Florida license, but he still was a CPA.  

Murphy often touted his work as a CPA and acknowledged during his 2012 campaign that his license was from Colorado after his opponent attacked him for it.

Murphy’s 2016 campaign website said that after college, he "went on to work as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for Deloitte and Touche, auditing Fortune 500 companies."

He started at Deloitte in Florida 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" and 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 wouldn’t have had to travel to Vermont to take it.)

There are four sections: auditing, business environment, financial accounting, and regulation. It takes at least two days to complete it.

The test records show that he took portions of the exam nine times between 2006 and 2008 but don’t clearly show how many times he took each portion.

CBS4 initially reported that Murphy took the exam "nine times" before passing the four portions but later updated the written report to also say "multiple times," although the references to the nine times also remains. (Politico also reported on Murphy’s record as a CPA.)

"The average number of sections per candidate is six, but nine is certainly not unusual," Jeannette Faber, who works for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, told PolitiFact Florida.

The Murphy campaign said that Murphy took the whole exam twice and then retook one section of the CPA exam. The national passage rate for the CPA exam in 2009 was just under 50 percent.

CBS 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, he just worked in Florida while holding a Colorado CPA license.

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

Many new hires at firms such as Deloitte have not passed the CPA exam. These non-CPA assistants can’t sign audit opinions or tax returns; however, they still can do audit work without having a CPA license from any state, McGill said.

Murphy was promoted to "audit senior" after obtaining his license. That position is "very important," McGill said.

"They are the boots on the ground doing the actually work."

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Our Sources

Florida First Project, Digital ad, June 23, 2016

Patrick Murphy campaign, "Setting the record straight on yesterday’s CBS4’s misleading report," June 23, 2016

Patrick Murphy Senate campaign, Website, Accessed June 28, 2016

Florida Department of State Division of Corporations, Coastal Environmental Services, 2010-2016

Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Patrick Murphy CPA license, Sept. 4, 2009

American Institute of CPAs, Uniform CPA examination passing rates, 2009

Politico, Copy of NASBA Colorado CPA licensing application, 2009

Miami Herald Naked Politics blog, "Marco Rubio's got help from a new super PAC, which is already hitting Patrick Murphy," June 23, 2016

Sun-Sentinel, "Democrat says he will take on Republican Allen West," (Accessed in Nexis) March 15, 2011

Vero Beach Press-Journal, "West gets challenger for district," (Accessed in Nexis) Feb. 10, 2012

Treasure Coast Palm, "Gift triples U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's personal wealth," Dec. 30, 2013

New York Times, "G.O.P. Firebrand Faces Election Challenge in a New Swing District in Florida," July 20, 2012

Palm Beach Post, "Allen West, Patrick Murphy spar over taxes, health care in televised debate," Oct. 19, 2012

Washington Post, "House candidates in Fla. dig years back for dirt," (Accessed in Nexis) Oct. 25, 2012

Engineering News-Record, "Industry Members Among Those Seeking Seats in U.S. Congress," (Accessed in Nexis) Nov. 5, 2012

Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "Patrick Murphy embellished his University of Miami academic achievement," May 23, 2016

Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "Patrick Murphy touts BP oil cleanup work but record raises questions," May 24, 2016

Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "Patrick Murphy aims his youthful political exuberance at U.S. Senate seat," June 3, 2016

Miami Herald Naked Politics blog, "Patrick Murphy downplays documented discrepancies in his accomplishments (video)," June 6, 2016

Politico, "Patrick Murphy overstated length of CPA experience," June 6, 2016

Politico, "Former Murphy partner says his comments in a CBS story were 'taken out of context,'" June 23, 2016

Business Wire, "Florida Builder Launches Assault on Oil Spills with State of the Art Oil Skimming Vessel," Oct. 13, 2010

Interview, Gabriel M. Gilman, Vermont Office of Professional Regulation general counsel, June 27, 2016

Interview, Joshua Karp, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy campaign spokesman, June 27, 2016

Interview, Gary McGill, director of Fisher School of Accounting and associate dean of the Warrington College of Business at University of Florida, June 28, 2016

Interview, Stuart R. Cohn, University of Florida law professor, June 28, 2016

Interview, Jeannette Faber, product channel specialist at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), June 28, 2016

Interview, Dan Whiteman, Coastal Environmental president, June 28, 2016

Interview, Byron M. Brown, CPA and Associate Principal Kaufman, Rossin & Co. and senior Manager at Deloitte when Patrick Murphy was an auditor, June 28, 2016


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