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grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm and Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia filed their latest fundraising totals earlier this week, with the incumbent just barely edging out his opponent in available cash.

Grimm’s April filing shows that he raised $345,000 over the last filing period, giving him just under $1.2 million to spend.

Recchia, meanwhile, posted $206,000 in cash raised, bringing his total to approximately $1.07 million.

Grimm’s filing, however, also showed that he’s carrying more than $450,000 in debt, largely due to legal expenses connected to the investigation into his 2010 fundraising. While the congressman hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing, several close associates have been questioned or arrested, and prosecutors appear to be gunning for the incumbent.

Diana Durand

Diana Durand

Diana Durand, a former beau of Congressman Michael Grimm who was arrested in January for illegally funneling money to the Republican pol’s campaign, will not implicate the congressman in the scheme, squashing a plea deal.

The Daily News reports:

“This is not about Dianna Durand. This is about Michael Grimm,” [Durand's attorney Stuart] Kaplan told the Daily News Tuesday. “They think that she is in a position to provide information about him.”

Kaplan said the case is headed to trial. Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York are expected to seek an indictment of Durand in the next few weeks.

Durand, 47, was cuffed in January and charged with violating federal campaign laws to steer money to Grimm. Prosecutors say she found and used straw donors to accept donations that exceeded the $4,800 legal maximum to support his 2010 campaign. She faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.

According to Durand’s lawyer, her prosecution is part of an effort to bring down the congressman, but his client has nothing to offer. He said that Durand’s actions were driven by ignorance of the law, and the pol wasn’t aware of her actions.

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Colton and Salgado (Source: Salgado via Twitter)

Assemblyman Bill Colton claims he’s staying out of the congressional race in the 11th District, currently occupied by Michael Grimm, until the candidates up their game and talk about “substantive issues.”

Here’s the statement he issued this morning:

“As a local Assemblyman and voter in the 11th Congressional District of New York, I am still waiting for a substantive discussion between the announced candidates on the needs and the future of the district. Thus far, voters, including me, have had to deal with distractions ranging from bar activities, reporter intimidation, the Brooklyn residence of the former Councilman, talk of packing punches and sizing up opponents, the neutrality of a local Assemblyman, and a back and forth on who did more during Sandy. What I, and many other voters, am waiting for is a substantive plan, with a track record to support it, to involve federal agencies to help stop the building of a dangerous garbage station in Southwest Brooklyn, cut bureaucratic red tape to get Sandy recovery dollars to reach impacted families and communities, to see federal dollars be used to address our antiquated infrastructure, to use federal aid to expand healthcare services in the outer-boroughs, and to see federal officials take aggressive stands against senseless school co-locations that will harm our children. Those are the issues I am closely following and care about. My endorsement is something I take serious because it bears my name on a person or an idea I strongly believe in and am informed about. I refuse to be influenced by party affiliation alone or the power of incumbency when making such an important decision. The voters expect and deserve more. The voters of the district have not been given a fair opportunity to be informed on the platforms of these candidates to help address the pressing issues of our day. Ultimately, voters who may have lost their homes due to Sandy could care less about the neutrality of an Assemblyman, but rather care more about a plan to help them rebuild their homes, communities, and lives. This race is not about the candidates running and not about my position on them. Public service is about serving families, addressing their needs, and caring for their future. Until we hear more about that and less about pettiness, I will continue to reserve my endorsement in this race.”

It sure has been a less-than-virtuous campaign so far. The two presumptive nominees, Grimm and Democrat Domenic Recchia, have focused more on slugging each other in the character arena – or just straight-up making an ass out of themselves – than having a discussion about the issues.

But is Colton really steering clear of the fray? His response comes on the heels of – and, likely, in response to – reports over the past few days that he’s been helping former mayoral candidate and Staten Island-based Evangelical pastor Erick Salgado mount a primary campaign that would pit him against Recchia, with whom Colton has an ongoing feud with.

Salgado even tweeted out a photo of himself with Colton, thanking the local pol for his help setting up an exploratory committee.

As for Salgado, it’s not exactly like he doesn’t know how to word a nice character attack himself. Here’s what he told Politicker last week about his potential campaign against Grimm:

“All I can tell you is that with Erick Salgado, you’re not going to have a pretty face in Washington, but you’re going to have someone who looks out for the needs of the people.”

Substantive indeed.

Source: Recchia campaign

Source: Recchia campaign

Former City Councilman Domenic Recchia on Saturday officially announced his bid for the 11th Congressional District, the seat currently occupied by Republican Michael Grimm.

Recchia made the announcement before a crowd of supporters in front of his mother’s Staten Island home, where he and a host of lawmakers backing him took aim squarely at his opponent and the Republican party.

Politicker reports:

“I won’t be going to Washington to carry water for my party. I’ll be caring for the hopes and dreams of the people I’m there to represent–you,” Mr. Recchia told the crowd. “I’ll make you one more promise: I will continue to conduct myself honorably because my mom wouldn’t have it any other way. We all know that Mr. Grimm can be a little pugnacious.”

… “Well, starting now he has to pick on somebody his own size,” Mr. Recchia said.

… Mr. Recchia is looking to ride the demographic and ideological shifts underway in the traditionally Republican borough. While a Republican mayoral candidate won the borough in last year’s general election, President Barack Obama eked out a victory there two years ago. Left-leaning, minority voters are also increasingly populating Staten Island’s north shore, where Democrats like Mr. Recchia have performed well.

Although Grimm’s campaign has been the subject of a federal probe into fundraising improprieties, much of the statements at the weekend rally instead focused on recent headlines depicting Grimm as a short-tempered brute. They zeroed in on his well-publicized comments to a NY1 reporter, who he threatened to throw off a balcony in Washington after the reporter asked about the fundraising allegations. Former Congressman Michael McMahon targeted the allegations that Grimm had a sexual romp with a woman in a Bay Ridge bar.

Congressman Jerry Nadler said at the rally that the district needs a congressman who will be respected by his colleagues and the public.

“Nobody respects Grimm,” he said. “Nobody intelligent can respect Grimm.”

Grimm, meanwhile, had a campaign rally and fundraiser over the weekend, drawing approximately 240 supporters, SILive reports. There, he taunted Democrats for their weak showing in Staten Island, promised a ferocious campaign, and said that the seat would remain staunchly Republican for years to come.

SILive reports:

He predicted an outsized victory in November.

“But we’re not just going to win,” he said. “We’re going to run away with this election. We’re going to let them know this is a contact sport.”

For Democrats who say that the congressional district is in play, Grimm said, “Guess what? The Staten Island/Brooklyn seat is not vulnerable, is not up for grabs. It’s a Republican seat. So go home. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your money. This one is ours.”

Grimm’s supporters also seemed to derive glee from the congressman’s apparent mistreatment of members of the fourth estate. On threatening physical harm against the NY1 reporter, former Staten Island GOP Chairman Robert Scamardella drew laughs when he mocked the national outcry.

“Oh, the inhumanity of it,” Scamardella said to laughter from the crowd.

It appears Grimm’s Staten Island supporters are not shaken by those headlines either. Both candidates marched in Staten Island’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, where SILive interviewed attendees.

Staten Island resident Chris Chiafullo told the outlet he would vote for Grimm, and didn’t see the threats being much of a concern in the borough.

“The balcony thing maybe made a difference outside Staten Island, but not here,” he said.

Although Staten Island surely remains the district’s base, the Brooklyn portion has grown in the latest round of redistricting. While the seat before covered Bay Ridge and a sliver of Bensonhurst and Gravesend, it has now swelled to include almost all of Gravesend and a hunk of Sheepshead Bay.

 

grimm

The Texas woman arrested last month as part of the FBI probe into Congressman Grimm’s campaign fundraising appeared in Brooklyn court yesterday, and her lawyers told reporters that she was being targeted because of her association with Grimm.

Diana Durand, 47, was put in handcuffs in January and charged with skirting federal campaign laws to steer money to Grimm. According to investigators, Durand used straw donors to hide the source of donations from contributors who sought to exceed the maximum amount permitted by law. She allegedly used a network of associates to write out checks to Grimm, which investigators say she then reimbursed using funds from the real donors.

If true, it appears to be a blatant and contrived attempt to dodge campaign finance laws – but Durand’s attorneys say the woman had no knowledge of the law to begin with.

NY1 reports:

Her attorneys say they are reviewing the evidence against her before the case moves forward.

“Had she had no association with the congressman, she would not be confronted with these charges,” said Stuart Kaplan, Durand’s attorney.

… “This is a woman that was never involved with politics before she met Michael Grimm. I think she is totally or she was totally devoid or ignorant to the rules or regulations or laws or ethical constraints with respect to fundraising,” said Kaplan.

The complaint alleges Durand knew she was skirting campaign finance law.

It points for one to this e-mail, showing Durand poking fun at one person she eventually reimbursed.

… From here it’s unclear if Durand will be officially indicted or if a plea deal could be in the works.

Prior to Durand’s arrest, authorities busted another member of Grimm’s campaign network, Ofer Biton, who pleaded guilty to visa fraud last year. The campaign has also been accused of donor swapping – a controversial practice in which candidates skirt campaign finance limits by having donors contribute to an ally, who then forwards the money to the original candidate as a separate contribution.

Grimm has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and the congressman has refused to speak at length on the matter. Questions about the investigation are what led Grimm to threaten to throw a NY1 reporter off a balcony and break him like a boy last month.

John Gangemi

John Gangemi

State Senator Marty Golden will see a challenge in this year’s state election from former Democratic City Councilman John Gangemi, Politicker reports.

Gangemi most recently made news when he ran an unsuccessful and largely unfunded primary campaign for Brooklyn borough president, although he was booted from the ballot before election day.

“Yes, I’m running,” Mr. Gangemi told Politicker. “Why not? Listen, I have 50 years of experience. I’m a former elected official, a former prosecutor … I don’t agree with [Mr. Golden's] philosophy, I don’t agree with his legislation. I think it’s time for a change. He doesn’t reflect the neighborhood and community he was elected to represent.”

Gangemi, a Bensonhurst resident with a law practice in Bay Ridge, served as a councilman-at-large in the 1970s, representing the entire borough before that office was eliminated.

Until his bid for borough president, his career in politics remained dormant for more than 30 years, with the exception of support for Mark Murphy’s failed bid to unseat Michael Grimm, according to the Daily News.

Golden last faced an opponent in 2012, when upstart Democrat Andrew Gournardes scored 41.9 percent of the vote – a significant amount considering Golden’s far superior name recognition and fundraising.

grimm

Grimm (File photo)

Congressman Michael Grimm addressed the Brooklyn Young Republican Club on Sunday, requesting the group’s support in what’s expected to be a fierce reelection campaign, saying that they must take his side to ensure there’s at least one GOP federal legislator representing New York City.

“I’m very optimistic with my chances. We have strong numbers. I’m a hard worker. I’ve assembled a good team,” Grimm said to the group, according to Politicker. “But I definitely need volunteers. So if there’s anyone here that would like to volunteer to make sure we keep at least one Republican at the federal level in New York City–at least one!–and then we need to start working on getting more … This is where it happens.”

Grimm is expected face off against former City Councilman Domenic Recchia, who is receiving strong fundraising and operational support from the national Democratic Party.

Grimm is seen as vulnerable, especially in light of a slew of recent headlines that appears to tie him to questionable fundraising practices. His campaign is also hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from legal bills as he staves off an FBI investigation into fundraising during his 2010 campaign.

While Grimm didn’t talk about the investigation during the appearance, he did attack left-leaning ideology.

“This progressive liberal ideology is dangerous and it undermines everything this country was founded on,” he said.

He also placed blame for the GOP’s struggles on “branding problems.”

“We have a branding problem When you speak to younger people, especially females, they don’t truly understand what I see here – a diverse group,” he said. “What the Democrats have done is a good job of branding us as the white, rich elite.”

Grimm depicted Recchia as a “very liberal Democrat.”

Here’s his remarks in full:

grimm

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.

SILive.com reports:

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.

grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm may have engaged in a controversial and ethically questionable practice of “donor swapping” in order to skirt the legal limits on campaign contributions in his 2010 campaign, reports the Daily News.

The paper concluded a review of the Republican congressman’s financial records, finding as many as 20 transactions totaling more than $75,000 that appear to be intended to hide contributions that exceed the limits.

The paper describes the process:

The swapping works like this: A donor who gives the maximum to Candidate A then donates to Candidate B. In return, a donor or friend of Candidate B gives an identical amount to Candidate A.

A Daily News review of 2010 fundraising records found more than 20 transactions suggesting supporters of Grimm and candidates in California, South Dakota, Illinois and Virginia swapped donations totaling more than $75,000.

One set of transactions involved Grimm himself:

On March 31, 2010, Grimm and Durand each gave $2,400 to Michael Curb, a Republican making a longshot bid for Congress in South Dakota. On the same day, Allison Bolger, an accountant in a Sioux Falls, S.D., firm headed by Curb, donated $4,800 to Grimm.

“Why would someone in South Dakota be interested in Grimm?” said Melanie Sloan, who heads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and examined the transactions at the request of The News. “They certainly are suspicious.”

To describe the scheme another way, if a donor wants to give $9,600 to a candidate, he gives one half of that directly to the candidate, and another check to another candidate the donor may not have a significant interest in. That second candidate then sends the money over to the first candidate, hiding the original source of the money – in a sense, laundering it.

Campaign contribution limits are in place to limit the influence of money in politics, particularly to prevent legislators from being pressured by big donors to support legislation that might benefit the donors. The reporting process, which requires the names of donors to be made public, is intended to add transparency to the process so that such lines of influence can be made clear to constituents.

Candidates who engage in donor swapping undermine that transparency and that limitation on influence from special interests. It’s a violation of the spirit of the law, if not the law itself.

According to the Daily News, Grimm has denied wrongdoing, but declined to comment on the apparent swaps that the records reveal.

Swapping as a crime can be hard to prove, as investigators must show that the candidates or their staffs conspired to hide the source of the funds.

The report comes on the heels of the arrest of Diana Durand, a friend of Grimm’s who was busted earlier this month for violating federal campaign laws to steer money to the congressman. She was charged with election fraud, and the allegations against her bare a striking resemblance to donor swapping: she allegedly used straw donors to conceal contributions that exceeded the maximum amount.

Durand, as noted in the Daily News article, was also a figure in the apparent donor swapping scheme.

Grimm is also the subject of an the ongoing FBI probe into his 2010 campaign fundraising, in which another Grimm associate is believed to have helped raise as much as $300,000 from a Jewish congregation in Manhattan, and then illegally funneled the money to Grimm’s campaign. That fundraiser, Ofer Biton, pleaded guilty to visa fraud last year as a result of the probe.

That investigation, as reported last week by the Daily News, has been impeded by a bribery investigation by Israeli authorities into the rabbi.

It has not been revealed whether investigators are also looking into the donor swapping allegations.

grimm

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation put handcuffs on a friend of Republican Congressman Michael Grimm on Friday, charging her with violating federal campaign laws to steer money to Grimm.

Diana Durand, 47, was arrested in Texas and charged with election fraud and lying to agents, reports the Daily News.

The paper describes the scheme:

A criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court accuses her of using straw donors — people who use other donors’ money to make gifts in their own name — so she could exceed the $4,800 maximum allowable contribution in giving to the campaign committee of “Candidate A” in 2009 and 2010. Candidate A is Grimm, according to sources and Durand’s public contribution record.

Durand was a “personal friend of Candidate A,” the complaint says, and sources said Grimm and Durand became romantically involved when Grimm had business interests in Texas in 2008.

After contributing $4,800, the maximum amount allowed, Durand recruited straw donors who she paid back for their contributions, the complaint charges.

According to the complaint, Durand thanked her cohorts by e-mail, writing, “I just wanted to thank you both again for helping me out with (Candidate A’s) campaign last week, she wrote to them in 2010. “I still have to make the deposit but I can write you both a check, or I can get your account numbers and do a transfer, whatever works for you.”

Grimm’s team seemed more upset with the bust than with the alleged shenanigans, although the congressman has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

“We are saddened that the government took the extraordinary step of arresting a single mother on these allegations, and hope the matter will be resolved quickly,” said William McGinley, an attorney for Grimm.

The news comes on the heels of a Federal Election Commission determination days ago that Grimm accepted campaign contributions for his 2014 campaign that were larger than the legal limit.

The latest bust appears to be a part of the ongoing probe into his 2010 campaign fundraising, in which another Grimm associate is believed to have helped raise as much as $300,000 from a Jewish congregation in Manhattan, and then illegally funneled the money to Grimm’s campaign. That fundraiser, Ofer Biton, pleaded guilty to visa fraud last year as a result of the probe.

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