WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) – The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that Rep. Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent, is under investigation for possible campaign finance violations, but said it is deferring the inquiry because of a separate Justice Department probe.
According to the committee, the Staten Island Republican may have violated campaign finance laws by soliciting and accepting prohibited contributions. That may have led to false information being included in campaign finance reports, the committee said.
Part of the investigation stems from whether Grimm improperly sought help from a foreign national, by soliciting contributions in exchange for help in getting the person a green card, according to a committee statement.
“Today’s announcement by the House Ethics Committee comes 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 Grimm’s lawyer William McGinley.
“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,” McGinley said.
The independent House Office of Congressional Ethics had recommended dismissal of the case because it could not establish with sufficient certainty that a violation occurred after Grimm became a congressman.
However, ethics committee Chairman Jo Bonner, R-Ala., and ranking Democrat Linda Sanchez of California said the panel previously has investigated conduct that occurred during an initial campaign for the House.
The Office of Congressional Ethics consists of a panel which does not include members of Congress. It can only make recommendations to the ethics committee, which has five members from each party.
“Based on this precedent, notwithstanding OCE’s view – the committee unanimously voted to continue to assert jurisdiction over matters relating to a successful campaign for election to the House of Representatives,” the Bonner-Sanchez statement said.
The committee said the Justice Department sought the delay in the House effort – as it often does – when conducting a parallel investigation. Following precedent, the ethics panel voted to place its investigation on hold.
Grimm, whose district covers Brooklyn and Staten Island, was first elected in 2010 with 51 percent of the vote. He was re-elected this year with 53 percent.
It has been previously reported that the FBI was probing money donated to Grimm’s 2010 campaign by followers of an Israeli rabbi. Agents last summer arrested Israeli businessman Ofer Biton, who has links to the adult entertainment industry, on immigration fraud charges.
Federal officials said Biton had helped Grimm raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto’s followers in New York. Biton was formerly a top aide to Pinto and in 2010 acted as a liaison between Grimm and potential donors in the congregation.
Some donors have said they broke campaign finance law by donating more money than allowed, or by funneling donations from foreigners who aren’t legally allowed to give to U.S. candidates.
Grimm repeatedly has denied knowledge of any improper donations or any other illegal activity.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)