The year has gotten off to a bad start for Congressman Michael Grimm.
First he made headlines early on in the Chris Christie “Bridgegate” debacle, calling the governor an example of “true leadership” – before the story spiraled further down the rabbit hole with additional allegations.
Then he got admonished by the Federal Election Commission for accepting campaign contributions that exceeded the legal limits.
His friend and fundraiser then got arrested by the FBI for violating federal campaign laws to steer money to Grimm, a charge that set the Daily News snooping into his records – finding that Grimm’s campaign appears to engage in “donor swapping” to skirt fundraising limits.
This week, two news stories surfaces that don’t leave the congressman in the best of lights.
A video surfaced in Israeli media showing Grimm heap praise on Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, the man at the center of the federal investigation into Grimm’s fundraising.
“The very first time that I met Rabbi [Yoshiyahu ] Pinto … it was a very special meeting,” Grimm says in the clip. “You could almost feel the positive energy when he holds your hand.”
It’s a bad association for Grimm, since the FBI’s investigation into his fundraising is rooted in accusation that he took illegal donations from members of Pinto’s congregation. The Pinto aide, Ofer Biton, who helped raise more than $500,000 for Grimm has pleaded guilty to visa fraud. Biton reportedly sought help from Grimm to get a green card.
All the alleged shenanigans spurred the other negative Grimm headline this week, with a Staten Island radio host, activist and Community Board 3 member calling on the New York City Bar Association to have the congressman, who is an attorney, disbarred.
Woodrow resident Frank Morano, who also serves on Community Board 3, said he wrote to the bar association’s Character and Fitness Committee that Grimm had violated the public trust.
Morano, a former Independence Party official who is now unaffiliated with any party, said that the allegations surrounding Grimm call for “a full throated response from the Bar, possibly including a formal reprimand or his disbarment.”
“If they fail to do so, then the privilege of having a law license is significantly less prestigious,” Morano said.
Grimm, who frequently blames the negative publicity on perceived political bias in the media and rivals, had harsh words for his critic.
“I have no interest in commenting on the ravings of an individual who has a history of making false and outlandish accusations against me. It is beneath any publication to waste the ink in printing a story about these absurd activities of zero credibility and dubious motivation,” he told SILive.
Daily News has Morano’s letter to the bar association in full.