Representative Michael Grimm is no stranger to bad press and controversy, so it might come as no surprise to anyone that he has again landed on the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) list of most corrupt members of Congress. In their newest report, CREW slams Grimm for the third year in a row, detailing his alleged dealings with Ofer Biton, an Israeli national who recently pleaded guilty to visa fraud and who may have illegally raised $500,000 for Grimm’s campaign.
This isn’t the first time Grimm has landed in CREW’s report. In 2011, we noted that Grimm’s inclusion seemed a bit unfair considering the relatively minor charges being levied against him. At the time, CREW lambasted Grimm for using FBI and Marine Corps insignia on his campaign literature and for appearing in a promotional video for a private security firm after being elected. The latest charges brought to attention by CREW are far more serious.
Last year, we had reported on the arrest of Ofer Biton, a top Grimm campaign fundraiser on charges of lying on his immigration documents. Recently, Biton pleaded guilty to visa fraud but is also under investigation for allegedly receiving improper cash donations from non-U.S. citizens to help finance Grimm’s campaign. It is not yet known if Biton has agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation that is looking into the allegations that Grimm illegally raised funds for his campaign. Culling information from an AP article, the CREW report highlights direct allegations that puts Grimm at the center of illegal activity:
Several of Rabbi Pinto’s followers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Rep. Grimm told donors there were ways to evade campaign finance laws.
One person alleged Rep. Grimm had requested a $20,000 contribution during the summer of 2010, and set a meeting near the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) building in Lower Manhattan. As instructed, the follower met Rep. Grimm and gave him $5,000 cash in an envelope. A week later, the same person gave Rep. Grimm another $5,000 from a friend. After receiving the second payment, the congregant said Rep. Grimm repeatedly called him demanding an additional $10,000 donation. “Every day, he used to call me, over and over,” the follower told the Times. He added that he ignored the requests.
Another Rabbi Pinto congregant said when Rep. Grimm came to his office to pick up a legal contribution, Rep. Grimm mentioned there were ways to circumvent campaign finance laws and described a scheme involving straw donors.16 According to the congregant, Rep. Grimm “wanted you to supply the money, and if someone wants to give and cannot give, you have to find a friend to give it through.” He added, “Let’s say someone is not legal to give because he’s not American. Grimm wants this guy, Joe A, to give the money to Joe B so Joe B can make the contribution to the campaign.”
A third follower of Rabbi Pinto said Mr. Biton asked him to pick up $25,000 from an Israeli citizen for Rep. Grimm’s campaign. The congregant said he did so and gave the checks to Mr. Biton, who passed them on to Rep. Grimm. The follower said the money was then listed falsely in Rep. Grimm’s campaign disclosure filings as having been contributed by at least five
As we have noted in our own reports on these allegations, Grimm has maintained an adamant insistence of his innocence, piling up legal fees in excess of $500,000 to defend himself. CREW’s report also details other actions they consider improper, like the inclusion of a link to a C-SPAN broadcast of a House floor speech on YouTube. Accusations such as these might technically be improper, but seem awfully minor in light of the other allegations.
To explore the extent of the charges laid against Grimm in the CREW report, including allegations that he assisted Biton in obtaining a green card in exchange for his fundraising help, you can do so by clicking here and scrolling to page 68.