Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman September 8, 2016

Republican group misleads in attack on Patrick Murphy's resume

The National Republican Senatorial Committee says it’s fact-checking U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy’s resume as a certified public accountant and small business owner.

Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat, is running against incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

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."

Did Murphy distort his work experience? We heard similar attacks against Murphy during the primary, and wrote a guide to attacks on Murphy’s resume. There are a lot of nuances to how Murphy has characterized his work experience, and the TV ad makes it sound clear cut. It’s not.

'Never worked as a CPA?'

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.

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 do audit work without having a CPA license from any state, McGill said.

"Bottom line: He can fully work as an audit assistant or even audit senior or manager in for Deloitte in Miami without being licensed in Florida (or anywhere)," McGill said. "It only becomes critical to have the Florida license if he becomes a partner."

Murphy was promoted to "audit senior" after obtaining his license.

"They are the boots on the ground doing the actual work," he said.

Murphy acknowledged in a 2012 debate that his CPA license was from Colorado after his Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Allen West, accused him of misleading voters about his credentials.

"I am a certified public accountant in the state of Colorado," Murphy said. "I never hid that."

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."

Featured Fact-check

A Murphy spokesman referred to an article by the Sun Sentinel which quoted a former supervisor of Murphy’s at Deloitte from 2007 to 2009. She gave $250 to his campaign in 2011.

"Patrick is a licensed CPA who did valued accounting work in Florida," Courtney Connolly told the Sentinel.

'Never a small business owner'

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 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, University of Florida corporate law professor Stuart Cohn previously told PolitiFact Florida.

"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 that 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 previously 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.

Most of Murphy’s annual congressional financial disclosures do not mention his position with Coastal Environmental.

In 2015, he amended his 2012 form to show that he was the firm’s vice president. In 2013, 2014 and 2015 he doesn’t list the firm at all.

The company has been dormant since 2010, so it hasn't generated any income and doesn't need to be reported as an asset on the forms, said Joshua Karp, Murphy’s campaign spokesman.

Our ruling

The NRSC ad says Murphy "never worked as a CPA" and was "never a small business owner."

Murphy did work as a CPA, albeit for only several months. He first worked as an audit assistant, and then got licensed through the state of Colorado.

Murphy has been an owner of Coastal Environmental Services. The firm only did work in the Gulf for a few months in 2010 and has since been dormant. Since it is a private business, we lack some information about it such as whether he put up any money to finance the business. He was a co-owner along with his father.

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.

Our Sources

Political Ad Archive, "Resume" TV ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sept. 7, 2016

CBS4, "The making of Patrick Murphy," June 22, 2016

WPTV, Allen West vs Patrick Murphy debate, Oct. 20, 2012

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

Sun Sentinel, "Murphy worked as CPA in Florida, says former supervisor," June 24, 2016

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

Miami Herald Naked Politics, "Republicans attack Patrick Murphy's 'career built on lies,'" June 28, 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

Sun Sentinel editorial board, "Murphy trips over his padded resume," July 6, 2016

PolitiFact Florida, "A guide to attacks on Patrick Murphy’s resume," June 29, 2016

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

Interview, Alec Saslow, spokesman for Maplight, Sept. 7, 2016

Interview, Greg Blair, spokesman National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sept. 7, 2016

Interview, Joshua Karp, spokesman U.S. rep. Patrick Murphy campaign, June 27 and Sept. 7, 2016

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Amy Sherman

Republican group misleads in attack on Patrick Murphy's resume

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up