US Congressman Michael Grimm: Man behind Sri Lanka resolution 'the most corrupt': Probe underway
Michael Grimm, the Republican US Congressman from the State of New York, the man who initiated an anti Sri Lanka resolution in the House this year who has been courted by the pro-Tamil Tiger separatist lobby for a long time, is now being investigated by a committee of the US Congress for allegedly soliciting and accepting illegal campaign contributions and filing false campaign reports.
The committee of five Democrats and five Republicans said in a statement that it voted on Nov. 15 to begin an inquiry into Mr. Grimm’s conduct.
It said it would examine whether Mr. Grimm solicited and accepted illegal campaign contributions and filed false campaign reports. It said it would also look into an allegation that a non-citizen collected donations for him in exchange for help in obtaining a green card.
At the same time, though, the committee announced that it had agreed to a request from the Justice Department “to defer consideration of this matter” for the time being.
It is common for federal prosecutors to ask Congress and other bodies with investigative powers to stand aside temporarily if there is a risk that their inquiries might interfere with a federal criminal case.
Congressman Grimm due to his long association with Sri Lankan separatist lobby in New York introduced a resolution March 2011 about Sri Lanka's conduct of the military offensive against the separatist/terrorist Tamil Tigers.
It was on 07 September 2012 that the House Majority leader Eric Canter indicated that this resolution may be considered in the weeks ahead.
Between 17 March 2011 and up to 07 September 2012 when the House majority leader Canter gave his indication the Resolution 177 was getting signatures of House Members finally culminating in 53 signatures when Mr. Canter gave his indication.
The Resolution says: The House of Representatives "Urges the Government of Sri Lanka, the international community, and the United Nations to establish an independent international accountability mechanism to look into reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations committed by both sides during and after the war in Sri Lanka and to make recommendations regarding accountability;"
Congressman Michael Grimm who moved the resolution to ascertain whether Sri Lanka committed any 'crime against humanity' during its war against a ruthless terrorist group is now facing the Congressional investigation whether he committed any crimes, malfeasance, corruption and misdemeanors.
The fund-raising allegations stem from his first run for office, in 2010, when he ousted a Democratic incumbent.
Much of the money he raised for that campaign came from supporters of a Sephardic rabbi and mystic, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, and had been solicited by a top aide to the rabbi, Ofer Biton. Some of the donors have contended that they gave sizable illegal contributions.
Mr. Biton, an Israeli citizen, , was arrested on immigration fraud charges this year and is awaiting trial.
CREW: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an organization that tracks corruption in the government said:
"During the 2010 election cycle, Rep. Grimm was frequently seen with Ofer Biton, an Israeli citizen and close aide to Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Rabbi Pinto leads a large and high-profile congregation in New York. Rep. Grimm and Mr. Biton traveled around the New York region together, and Mr. Biton helped Rep. Grimm raise money from Rabbi Pinto’s followers. A New York Times analysis of Rep. Grimm’s campaign contributions found he raised more than $500,000 from members of Rabbi Pinto’s congregation, which made up more than half the contributions Rep. Grimm received from individuals during that cycle. The contributors included several businessmen involved in the pornography industry. Notably, the Times found the vast majority of Rabbi Pinto’s followers who donated to Rep. Grimm had never before given to a federal candidate and, in addition, lived outside of Rep. Grimm’s district."
The CREW further said in its January 2012 write-up in its web site:
(QUOTE) Campaign Finance Violations
Under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and federal campaign finance regulations, it is illegal to make a cash contribution of more than $100, and any campaign receiving a cash contribution in excess of $100 must immediately return the excess amount. In addition, campaigns may not accept contributions in excess of the statutory limit, which was $2,400 per election in 2010. If Rep. Grimm received two cash contributions of $5,000 each, he accepted illegal excessive cash campaign contributions.
The federal campaign finance regulations also prohibit accepting campaign contributions in the name of another or assisting anyone in making contributions in someone else=s name. It is also illegal for a federal campaign to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution from a foreign national.
Therefore, if as one Rabbi Pinto’s followers asserted, Rep. Grimm suggested and then accepted campaign contributions made in someone else’s name, including contributions made by foreign nationals, he violated campaign finance law.
Acceptance of a Bribe
Federal law prohibits public officials from directly or indirectly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to receive or accept anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act. If Rep. Grimm promised that upon election he would use his government position to assist Mr. Biton’s attempt to obtain a green card in return for Mr. Biton’s raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Rep. Grimm’s congressional campaign, Rep. Grimm likely accepted a bribe.
The federal illegal gratuity statute similarly prohibits a public official from directly or indirectly demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to accept anything of value personally for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such official. In considering this statute, the Supreme Court has held that an illegal gratuity “may constitute merely a reward for some future act that the public official will take (and may already have determined to take),” and that a link must be established between the gratuity and a specific action taken by or to be taken by the government official. If Rep. Grimm took any official action to assist Mr. Biton as a reward for Mr. Biton’s raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions for Rep. Grimm's campaign, he likely accepted an illegal gratuity.
In addition, the House Ethics Committee has used the acceptance of bribes and gratuities under these statutes as a basis for disciplinary proceedings and punishment of members, including expulsion. (END QUOTE)
In September the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) as one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Rep. Grimm allegedly exchanged illegal campaign contributions for a promise to assist a prominent fundraiser in procuring a green card, in addition to violating House rules by misusing the broadcast of a floor speech in a fundraising email. For the second year in a row, Rep. Grimm’s antics have earned him a spot in CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress report, an annual, bipartisan look at Washington’s worst.
“For a freshman member of Congress, Rep. Grimm already has quite the rap sheet,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Criticized for misusing FBI and U.S. Marine Corps imagery during his campaign, you’d think he’d have learned not to abuse government resources.
Combined with a potentially criminal fundraising scheme, it’s clear Rep. Grimm’s moral compass is severely impaired.”
The New York Times 08 August this year reported "When Representative Michael G. Grimm, a first-term Staten Island Republican, went on a fact-finding trip abroad last year, he widely publicized his first stop, Israel, sending off a stream of messages about his activities there via Twitter. But he was largely silent about his second stop, Cyprus.
"In fact, Mr. Grimm did not file required paperwork about the trip, which was paid for by a private organization, with the House clerk, according to Congressional records. Nor did he initially report the Cyprus trip on his Congressional financial disclosure filing in May, even though he did list the Israel trip, according to the records.
"But in June, Mr. Grimm amended his financial disclosure filing to report the Cyprus trip, the records show. The amended filing came one day after his host on the trip, Peter Papanicolaou, the president of the Cyprus Federation of America, which paid for the $6,890 visit, was arrested in Brooklyn on federal corruption charges. "
Mr. Grimm has come under scrutiny in recent months after The New York Times reported that three contributors to his 2010 race said that Mr. Grimm or his chief fund-raiser informed donors that his campaign would find ways to accept illegal donations, including those that exceeded contribution limits, were given in cash or came from foreigners without green cards.
The United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn has since interviewed some of the donors, and several people briefed on the matter have said the office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are examining Mr. Grimm’s 2010 campaign.
F.B.I. agents assigned to a squad that investigates public corruption have interviewed several people who worked on the 2010 campaign and questioned them about whether they were paid in cash, according to one of the people interviewed.
- Asian Tribune -