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Hill ethics panel puts probe of Grimm on hold
FBI investigates New York lawmaker
The House Ethics Committee is complying with a Department of Justice request to suspend its case against Rep. Michael G. Grimm while the FBI investigates corruption allegations against the New York Republican, the panel said Monday as it worked to meet end-of-the-year deadlines on a handful of outstanding cases.
The U.S. attorney's public corruption unit in Brooklyn reportedly has spent months investigating allegations that Mr. Grimm accepted illegal campaign donations, but this is the first time any government entity has publicly acknowledged the Justice Department probe.
Mr. Grimm, a former FBI agent, entrepreneur and U.S. Marine who represents Staten Island, has faced several charges of illegal campaign activity since winning his congressional seat in 2010. He also failed to file a required report with the Ethics Committee about a 2011 trip to Cyprus, which the Cyprus Federation of America funded until he amended his filing in June, one day after the group's president was arrested, according to a report in The New York Times.
In August, one of Mr. Grimm's top fundraisers was arrested for allegedly lying about the source of a loan on immigration documents. The man, an Israeli named Ofer Biton, traveled around the New York area with Mr. Grimm to raise money for his congressional campaign, fueling charges that Mr. Grimm accepted contributions over the legal limit and from noncitizen donors without green cards.
The FBI also is looking into whether Mr. Biton embezzled millions of dollars from a rabbi who served as a spiritual adviser to former Rep. Anthony A. Weiner, New York Democrat, and to NBA star LeBron James. Mr. Biton had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Mr. Grimm from members of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto's congregation.
Mr. Grimm has denied any wrongdoing, and the Justice Department has yet to charge him with a crime.
At the Justice Department's request, Ethics Committee chairman Rep. Jo Bonner and ranking member Rep. Linda Sanchez said Monday that the panel voted unanimously to defer consideration of the case against Mr. Grimm. Mr. Bonner is a Republican from Alabama; Ms. Sanchez is a Democrat from California.
The House Ethics Committee has wrapped up or extended a number of its pending cases over the past few months, most notably clearing Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, in late September of any wrongdoing in a three-year-old case involving her work on behalf of a minority-owned bank in which her husband owned stock.
When Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat, resigned last week, he likely ended the Ethics Committee's investigation into his dealings with then-Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, who is serving a prison sentence on corruption charges. The panel usually doesn't pursue cases against former members of Congress and had already deferred the Jackson matter to the Justice Department, which is investigating the Illinois Democrat for misuse of campaign funds.
The panel also recently indefinitely extended its investigation into Rep. Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey Democrat, who has been accused of using tens of thousands of dollars in his campaign fund for personal travel, as well as Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat, who is facing allegations involving a loan he took from a Queens businessman but failed to report for three years.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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