Staten Island’s Michael Grimm emerged from obscurity two years ago to win a seat in Congress based in part on his compelling personal narrative. Mr. Grimm is a former Marine and a onetime FBI agent. At a time of national anxiety over global terrorism, he was able to address security issues based on his experience and expertise.
But Mr. Grimm’s clean-cut persona has taken a hit in recent weeks amid reports of fund-raising irregularities that should attract the attention of his onetime colleagues in law enforcement. The allegations, it should be noted, concern not just his campaign’s actions, but Mr. Grimm’s personal contacts, fund-raising methods and slippery business practices.
Mr. Grimm’s top fund-raiser two years ago, Ofer Biton, is under federal investigation. Donors told The New York Times that Mr. Grimm and Mr. Biton told them that they would accept unlawful donations during the 2010 campaign. Mr. Grimm’s business partner and onetime FBI colleague, Carlos Luquis, served 18 months in prison on charges that he and five accomplices stole $2 million from electricity customers in Texas. And two workers in an East Side restaurant in which Mr. Grimm had an interest, Healthalicious, are suing the congressman and others, charging that they did not pay minimum wages and overtime.
Not a pretty picture. In response to these and other troubling issues, Mr. Grimm has chosen to remain silent, save to insist that these allegations are politically motivated. He told his hometown newspaper that those who have raised these questions “are picking on the wrong Marine.”
Nice try, congressman, but it’s time to go beyond flag-waving. The Times stories suggest a very troubling pattern involving Mr. Grimm’s political fund-raising and private business dealings. The congressman had been emerging as a second-tier surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but last week the campaign announced that Mr. Grimm would no longer make appearances on the candidate’s behalf.
Democrats in Mr. Grimm’s district, which includes all of Staten Island and portions of Brooklyn, have a chance to recapture a seat they won in 2008 after three decades of a Republican monopoly, only to see it slip away in 2010. Mr. Grimm has a lot of explaining to do, but unless he faces a vigorous challenge, he will be content to attack his critics and hide behind the flag. That would be a disservice to the district and to the city as a whole.