Plenty of politicians make their way to Capitol Hill and hope to get noticed during their first year. As a rule, that’s not easy for a freshman – to borrow a line from “Arrested Development,” rookie lawmakers are generally supposed to be neither seen nor heard.
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), meanwhile, has a very different kind of problem. He’s made quite a name for himself fairly quickly, but not necessarily in a good way.
About a year ago, the New York Republican, who based much of his campaign on attacking health care reform, offered an unintentionally hilarious response when asked if he’d be willing to give up government-subsidized health care for himself: “What am I, not supposed to have health care? … God forbid I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation. That can happen to anyone.”
More recently, Grimm appeared on msnbc and argued Mitt Romney should be applauded for taking pleasure in firing people.
The New York Times, meanwhile, has uncovered what may be a far more serious problem for the GOP congressman. Grimm reportedly hoped to prove his viability as a candidate by raising a lot of money in 2010, and to do so, he turned to Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, an Orthodox rabbi and Israeli mystic, and Pinto’s followers. One of the rabbi’s top aides, Ofer Biton, helped Grimm raise more than $500,000.
Now that Biton is facing a federal criminal investigation, Grimm is facing allegations that he received some “questionable” donations.
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.
In general, when congressional candidates start accepting envelopes with over $5,000 in cash, there’s a problem.
Grimm’s office has said the allegations are “false.” The congressman is currently in Florida, serving as a surrogate for Romney’s presidential campaign.