Common Cause Urges Ethics Probe of Rep. Michael Grimm
- Dale Eisman
Congressional investigators should open an inquiry into the conduct of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-NY, who was caught on camera threatening a reporter on Tuesday night and already is the subject of a federal investigation for possible campaign finance law violations, Common Cause said today.
The government watchdog group said it will ask the independent Office of Congressional Ethics to consider whether Grimm has violated a House rule requiring that members “behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”
“There are troubling signs that Congressman Grimm has violated both the letter and spirit of House rules,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. “We’re particularly concerned about allegations that he was involved in a scheme to use a network of straw donors to circumvent campaign finance laws.”
A supporter and former friend and business associate of Rep. Grimm is facing federal charges in Texas that she funneled money to friends with the understanding that they would contribute it to the congressman’s 2010 campaign. Diana Durand had reached the $4,800 legal limit on donations and so could not contribute in her own name. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Last summer, Ofer Biton, an Israeli citizen who helped Grimm raise more than $500,000 for his 2010 race, pleaded guilty to visa fraud in a case that grew out of the FBI’s probe of Grimm’s campaign finances.
The New York Times reported in 2012 that Biton introduced Grimm to followers of a prominent Staten Island rabbi and joined the then-candidate in soliciting their help in his campaign. The newspaper said three of the rabbi’s followers claimed that Grimm or Biton assured them that the campaign could accept donations exceeding the legal limit, were given in cash or were given by foreigners without green cards.
Federal law bars congressional campaigns from accepting cash donations of more than $100 and bans all donations from or campaign solicitations by foreigners without green cards.
Rep. Grimm apologized on Wednesday for his behavior during an on-camera encounter with an NY1 reporter following Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. Unhappy with questions about his campaign finances, Grimm cut the interview short, then threatened to throw the journalist off a balcony above the lobby of a House office building. “I’ll break you in half, like a boy,” the congressman said.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.