Ethics watchdog ends Grimm probe

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) has been cleared by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog, of fundraising violations — a major boost to his reelection campaign.

The nonpartisan office, which reviews charges of misconduct and decides whether to send them to the House Ethics Committee for further review, voted unanimously to end its probe of Grimm last month, according to two sources familiar with the case.

But the OCE's jurisdiction is limited to investigating what what current members of Congress have done. That means their probe focused on in Grimm's time in office, which did not include all of lawmaker's alleged campaign finance violations.

"I welcome the unanimous recommendation of the Office of Congressional Ethics to dismiss this matter, and respect the system in place to uphold the highest ethical standards for those who serve in Congress," Grimm said in a statement on Tuesday.

Grimm's attorney, William McGinley, said that "the OCE made the correct recommendation to dismiss this matter. As we have said before, the allegations against Congressman Grimm are unfounded and any fair and objective inquiry will confirm that Congressman Grimm engaged in no wrongdoing."

The freshman lawmaker also faces a Justice Department investigation. In March, The New York Times reported that Grimm and the Israeli assistant to an influential local rabbi pressed the rabbi's congregants for cash donations well above the legal limits and accepted cash donations from non-citizens. The FBI recently questioned four Grimm staffers from his 2010 campaign about the alleged fundraising.

The issue is unlikely to go away from Grimm politically as Democrats have made him a top target this cycle. But the clearance by the OCE was a major coup for the embattled congressman, who represents a Republican-leaning district.

The Hill rates his race a "toss-up."

— This story was updated at 11:14 a.m.

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