Ethics questions about Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) continue to mount, as a New York Daily News story published this weekend details his push for leniency for a business acquiantance, Thomas Kontogiannis, who was later sentenced to eight years in jail for bribery.
The issue is the latest headache for Grimm, a first-term congressman from Staten Island, N.Y. He has already been criticized for his ties to an aide of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi now under investigation for embezzlement and fraud, and Grimm faces accusations that he accepted donations surpassing the legal limit.
Grimm, a former FBI agent, wrote a letter to the judge in Kontogiannis's trial arguing that the man had been helpful in a variety of FBI investigations. He asked the judge to be "be as lenient as the law will allow" and give him probation rather than prison time, a suggestion the judge flatly rejected.
Kontogiannis is tied to another GOP congressman: former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who is in prison after being convicted of accepting bribes, some of them from Kontogiannis.
Grimm sits in a Republican-leaning Staten Island district with a history of political scandal. The last Republican in the seat, former Rep. Vito Fossella (N.Y.), decided not to run for reelection in 2008 after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated and admitted to having an affair and maintaining a second family with his mistress.
The seat could be winnable for Democrats: Fossella won it back from Democratic Rep. Michael McMahon with just 53 percent of the vote in the Republican wave election of 2010, and the seat is unlikely to change drastically from redistricting.