Rep. Michael Grimm, whose congressional district spans Staten Island and covers much of southern Brooklyn, has come under scrutiny over multiple unscrupulous — and perhaps illegal — campaign donations to his campaign account, but Congressional Republicans, including members of the New York GOP Delegation are looking the other way.
The New York Times says that Grimm received donations from Israeli citizens via a money laundering operation, even at one point accepting envelopes stuffed with cash. Campaign finance laws bar those who aren’t U.S. citizens from donating to federal campaigns. Grimm, a former FBI agent, might be facing the Justice Department from the other side of the table if allegations of his shady fundraising prove true.
According to the Times, followers of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto claim Grimm or an aide to the rabbi prepped them on sending donations that were either above the legal donation limit, or to mask those that were given by foreign nationals. Grimm raised a princely $500,000 from Pinto’s followers.
One of the rabbi’s adherents said he donated $5,000 in campaign cash to Grimm while they sat in a car parked outside of the FBI building in Lower Manhattan.
Grimm has denied the allegations, and while has not been officially accused of any criminal wrongdoing, it seems a possible investigation is brewing.
These are serious allegations if true. The accusations outline outright crimes, not minor indiscretions or misunderstandings. If any evidence shows that Grimm personally took the donations as alleged, this will undoubtedly land him in front of a federal grand jury. In addition, some New Yorkers have called for the House Ethics Committee to look into the allegations. So far, the Republican-controlled House has turned a blind eye.
The rabbi’s aide that allegedly helped get these contributions, Ofer Biton, is an Israeli citizen living in the United States that is under investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorneys for stealing funds from the rabbi’s congregation.
Nevertheless, Grimm’s fellow Congressional Republicans are turning a blind eye, and since the reports surfaced several weeks back, some have said they haven’t questioned their colleague.
“The silence from Speaker John Boehner and Republican Leader Eric Cantor on Congressman Michael Grimm’s fundraising scandal is deafening,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Leader Cantor pledged a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for ethics but it appears he has zero interest in even making a telephone call about it.”
Cantor has told the media he has not talked to Grimm.
Members of the New York Republican Congressional delegation who work closely with Grimm are also ignoring this explosive situation. When asked about the accusations against Grimm, Rep. Nan Hayworth (NY-19) acknowledged that she hadn’t made queries into the allegations or talked about it with her freshman colleague.
“I have not studied it in any way, I have no comment on it,” Hayworth quipped to PolitickerNY.
Hayworth and Grimm serve together on the Financial Services Committee, and both are actively campaigning for Mitt Romney.
One of Hayworth’s possible opponents in November, Democrat Richard Becker is calling on Hayworth to help look into problems in the New York Republican Congressional delegation:
“Nan Hayworth and the national GOP’s ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ strategy just won’t fly. It’s time for Hayworth to demand answers from her colleague about his alleged criminal misconduct,” said Becker.
“Real leadership requires that you tackle corruption head on wherever it occurs, not turn a blind eye to serious allegations.” Becker continued. “Instead, Hayworth is once again showing more concern for political and financial elites than for her constituents and our State.”