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The House Ethics Committee confirmed Monday that it is examining whether Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., broke federal campaign finance laws, but the panel said it will put its inquiry on hold while the Justice Department conducts a related probe.
The case stems from allegations that the first-term lawmaker accepted illegal campaign contributions, filed erroneous campaign finance reports and offered to help get a green card for a non-citizen if the individual raised money on his behalf.
Grimm’s attorney said the announcement came as no surprise. “We appreciate the committee’s decision to defer consideration of this matter while we continue to work with the Department of Justice to favorably resolve the false allegations against Congressman Grimm,” said William McGinley at Patton Boggs. “Any fair and objective review of all of the facts in this matter will conclude that Congressman Grimm engaged in no wrongdoing. We are confident that the Department of Justice and the Ethics Committee will reach that result.”
Grimm, a former FBI agent, earlier this month defeated Democratic challenger Mark Murphy by a comfortable margin in his new New York City district, which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, despite ethics allegations that he was aware some of his contributions came from foreign nationals. Israeli citizen Ofer Biton solicited money for Grimm’s first campaign from a rabbi whose followers include a number of non-citizens. Federal prosecutors charged Biton in August, and Israeli officials are investigating the rabbi.
The committee began looking into whether Grimm may have violated federal campaign finance laws after it received a referral from the independent Office of Congressional Ethics in late June. The OCE recommended dismissing the case because it “could not establish with a sufficient certainty that a violation occurred after Representative Grimm became a member of Congress,” according to a statement released by Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner, R-Ala., and ranking member Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif.
Committee precedent, however, allows it to examine pre-election behavior related to members’ official duties. The committee voted unanimously on Nov. 15 to continue to investigate charges related to successful campaigns for Congress, authorizing a preliminary review of the Grimm case.
“In prior congresses, the committee has held that it may investigate conduct that violated laws, regulations, or standards of conduct, which occurred during an initial campaign for the House of Representatives,” the joint statement read.
At the Justice Department’s request, and in keeping with committee custom, the committee will defer taking further action on the matter until the federal case is complete.
“At least annually, the committee will make a public statement if it continues to defer taking action on the matter. The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral ... does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred,” the statement read.