Democrats in New York have filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against GOP Rep. Michael Grimm following a weekend report that detailed questionable campaign donations.
Manuel Ortega, law chairman of the Staten Island Democratic Party, said on Tuesday he had filed an FEC complaint on behalf of Paul Duffy, a constituent of Grimm’s.
The complaint details five counts of alleged violations, including excessive and illegal cash contributions, and asks the FEC to refer Grimm for criminal prosecution “as appropriate.”
The complaint relies on a lengthy article in Saturday’s New York Times that reported on Grimm’s ties to a top fundraiser who is now under federal investigation for embezzlement. The article detailed Grimm’s association with Ofer Biton, an Israeli citizen and former aide to a prominent rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Biton helped raise more than $500,000 from Pinto’s followers for Grimm’s election campaign in 2010, the Times reported, but he is now being investigated for embezzling millions of dollars from the rabbi’s congregation.
The Times quoted followers of the rabbi who alleged that Biton and Grimm solicited campaign contributions well over the legal limit, including donations in cash or from foreign citizens without green cards. In one case, an unnamed follower said Grimm pressed him for $20,000 and that he handed over $5,000 in cash directly to Grimm in a meeting near an FBI building in Lower Manhattan.
The legal contribution limit for primary and general election campaigns is $4,800, and candidates cannot accept cash donations above $100 or contributions from foreigners without green cards.
Democrats have seized on the allegations, saying they give the party new hope of taking back Grimm’s district in November.
Grimm, who defeated Rep. Michael McMahon (D) to win the Staten Island seat in 2010, denied the allegations in the Times piece and in a separate statement following the article’s publication.
"The unsubstantiated accusations made by the Times are completely false and it's disappointing that such a story was allowed to go forward without evidence," Grimm said. "I have dedicated my entire life to honorably serving this country from the U.S. Marine Corps to the FBI and have conducted myself both as a candidate and a member of Congress by the same high standards. I will bring that same focus to continuing my work on behalf of my constituents while ensuring these allegations are shown to be the falsehoods they are."