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Amid Controversy, Grimm Nets Boehner Boost

New York Republican Is Being Investigated by FBI on Allegations of Trying to Extort Campaign Funds

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
According to sources, the FBI is looking into allegations that, in 2010, then-Congressional candidate Michael Grimm (above) tried to extort campaign funding from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto and could launch a formal investigation into the affair.

Embattled Rep. Michael Grimm got some welcome news Monday in the form of an endorsement from New York firefighters and a vote of confidence from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), even as he faces a potential FBI probe into allegations that he tried to strong-arm an influential Israeli rabbi into giving him campaign cash.

According to several sources, the FBI has already begun looking into allegations that in 2010, the New York Republican tried to extort funding from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto and could launch a formal investigation into the affair.

On Monday, Boehner's office gave Grimm a boost. "The Speaker has time and again made clear that he holds every Member to the highest standards of ethical conduct, and Rep. Grimm continues to have the Speaker's confidence," Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said.

Back in his district, the first-term lawmaker tried to keep things business as usual. During an event at a firehouse in his Staten Island district, Grimm avoided any talk of the scandals that have threatened to engulf him.

"Thanks to their commitment and service, families throughout Staten Island and Brooklyn sleep soundly at night knowing that these leaders of the FDNY will be there should an emergency arise," Grimm said in a statement, adding, "I pledge to continue my unwavering support for our nation's first responders, particularly in the areas of improving working conditions and technology, and by ensuring that they have all the resources they need to do the job as safely and effectively as possible."

Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Al Hagan praised Grimm's work as a Marine and FBI agent, saying in a statement that "the Unformed Fire Officers Association looks forward to a long, productive relationship with Congressman Michael Grimm in the months and years to come."

But despite the "all is well" nature of Grimm's activities Monday, the Republican was facing an uncertain future.

If the FBI ultimately decides to not investigate him, he could still face other ethics inquiries.

For instance, if a complaint is filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics, Grimm could find his campaign activities coming under scrutiny even though he was not yet a Member of Congress.

"There would have to be allegations that the individual actually promised favors as a Congressman in exchange for donations ... because it affects the conduct of the Member," said Jan Baran, an elections and ethics attorney with Wiley Rein.

Because OCE "can accept any type of query or complaint from anyone in the public," Baran said, that could trigger at least a preliminary investigation.

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