Friday, October 24, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: A Grimm Duck on Staten Island

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It’s been more than a week since Rep. Michael Grimm went beserk in front of a camera, threatening to attack NY1’s Michael Scotto after he had the temerity to try to ask the Congressman about a federal probe into his campaign finances.

After initially releasing a statement that tried to justify his bad behavior, Grimm backtracked and apologized, even offering to take Scotto out to lunch. (Hopefully at a restaurant without a balcony.) House Speaker John Boehner seems uninterested in disciplining Grimm – even though had Scotto threatened Grimm in that manner, he’d be out of a job today.

Grimm’s rant has become the fodder of “Saturday Night Live” and Jon Stewart – and put a spotlight on a lawmaker who has been quite vocal about Hurricane Sandy relief – and noticeably silent when it comes to a scandal that threatens to sink his re-election bid.

While trying to put his angry rant behind him, Grimm still hasn’t addressed the controversy that led Scotto to try to question him in the first place. And unlike N.J. Gov. Chris Christie who answered a flurry of questions from reporters for nearly two hours about the George Washington Bridge mess, Grimm hasn’t fielded a single question about the arrest of one of his fundraisers last month, Diana Durand, who has been charged with illegally funneling more than $10,000 into his 2010 campaign.

A federal probe into that campaign is continuing – with investigators reportedly focusing on whether Grimm illegally raised money with the help of the congregation of an orthodox rabbi, Yoshiyahu Pinto, and an aide, Ofer Biton. (Biton pleaded guilty to visa fraud last August and is now in Israel).

In addition, the Daily News reported last month that Grimm may have engaged in “donor swapping” in which contributors who have donated the legal maximum to his campaign give more money to another GOP candidate – and then that candidate’s donors give money back to Grimm in return. Here are a few questions for Grimm that deserve an answer – and not a threat or a duck:

• Have you or anyone from your office been questioned by the FBI about your campaign fundraising?
• What kind of conversations did you have with Diana Durand about fundraising for your campaign?
• When was the last time you spoke with Durand and what did you talk about?
• Did you or anyone in your office discuss “donor swapping” with other GOP campaigns? If not, who are these out-of-state donors to your campaign and why are they giving you money?
• When was the last time you spoke with Biton or Rabbi Pinto?

Grimm could try to put this story to rest by holding a press conference and face every question about the case, rather than rage against a reporter who is just trying to do his job. Maybe – in his words – he’ll be “man enough” to be interviewed about the controversy and not continue his long duck-and-run until Election Day.


Bob Hardt

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Connect with the ItCH

• Get an e-mail each day when the ItCH is published by subscribing to our ItCH alert.
• Follow Bob Hardt on Twitter @bobhardt.
• Send your comments to insidecityhall@ny1.com.
 
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