Ethics panel defers to FBI on probe of NY congressman

The House Ethics Committee on Tuesday said it is putting off an inquiry into Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) at the request of the Justice Department. 

The FBI has been investigating Grimm — a top target for Democrats in 2014 — over allegations that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions, among other things.

The Ethics Committee was asked to look into the charges last year but deferred to the FBI investigation. The committee said it would update the public annually if the deferral continues, as it did on Tuesday.

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“The Department of Justice has asked the Committee to continue to defer consideration of this matter and the Committee, following precedent, agreed to continue to defer consideration of this matter at this time. At least annually, the Committee will make a public statement if it continues to defer taking action on the matter,” Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and ranking member Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said in a statement. 

A former Grimm fundraiser, Ofer Biton, was convicted earlier this year of lying about his finances on a visa application dating back to 2010. A number of Grimm staffers were questioned in the probe.

The Ethics Committee had been asked to investigate whether Grimm received illegal fundraising help from Biton in exchange for helping him receive a green card. 

Grimm’s lawyer has dismissed the charges. His communications director, Carol Danko, on Tuesday said the charges are "without merit" and are "politically motivated in their creation only to sully his reputation in an effort to destroy his political career."

Danko emphasized that the ethics deferral does not indicate wrongdoing.  

Grimm survived his reelection bid in 2012 with 53 percent of the vote despite Democratic attacks focused on the investigation. 

Earlier last year, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics dismissed its investigation because the alleged action took place during Grimm’s first campaign in 2010 — before he was a member of Congress. 

The Ethics Committee has voted that the charges are relevant but has so far deferred to the Justice Department.