The New York Times reports Republican Congressman Michael Grimm may have broken the law fundraising for his first campaign two years ago, charges Mr. Grimm denies. The report’s sources accuse Mr. Grimm of everything from accepting envelopes full of cash to orchestrating a system of “straw donors” to allow Israeli citizens to funnel money into his campaign.
The allegations revolve around Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto’s large number of followers that the Times says contributed $500,000 in total to his campaign. A number of detailed charges are laid out based on interviews from his congregation:
Three of the rabbi’s followers said in separate interviews that Mr. Grimm or Mr. Biton told them that the campaign would find a way to accept donations that were over the legal limit, were given in cash or were given by foreigners without green cards.
Congressional campaigns are not allowed to accept cash donations of more than $100. Foreigners without green cards are barred by law from giving to political campaigns. They are also not allowed to solicit contributions for campaigns.
One follower of the rabbi said in an interview that Mr. Grimm pressed him for $20,000. The follower said Mr. Grimm instructed him to meet him ‘near the F.B.I. building,’ in Lower Manhattan, in summer 2010 to give the money. The follower said he handed over $5,000 in cash in an envelope to Mr. Grimm in Mr. Grimm’s car.
“At first, I thought it was a joke because the allegations are so absurd and ridiculous,” Mr. Grimm wrote in response to the Times‘ requests. “But let me be very clear, the information you received is completely false and I know is unsubstantiated, thus completely unfit to print.”
The allegations shine an interesting light on a controversy surrounding Mr. Grimm’s 2010 opponent, former Congressman Mike McMahon. Politicker reported at the time that a spokeswoman for Mr. McMahon’s campaign argued the Republican was accepting “Jewish money” from outside the Staten Island-based district. Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto was specifically mentioned in the article.