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 in a release.
The U.S. attorney’s public corruption unit in the New York borough of 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 Weiner, New York Democrat, and NBA star LeBron James. Mr. Biton 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.
The House Ethics Committee on Monday said it had received a referral in late June about the charges against Mr. Grimm from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), a quasi-independent body charged with conducting preliminary reviews of allegations against lawmakers and furthering them on to the full ethics panel for further action.
The OCE had dismissed the matter against Mr. Grimm because it could not determine “with sufficient certainty” that Mr. Grimm had violated campaign finance laws or House ethics rules after he was elected to Congress. But the Ethics Committee said its rules allow it to look into potential violations that occur during a lawmaker’s initial campaign for Congress.
At the Justice Department’s request, Rep. Jo Bonner, Alabama Republican and Ethics Committee chairman, and Rep. Linda T. Sanchez of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the panel voted unanimously to defer consideration of the case against Mr. Grimm but would continue to make a public statement “at least annually” if it continues to delay looking into the matter.