After Biton Arrest, Murphy Calls On Grimm to Return $500,000

The scene from today’s press conference.

“I’m terribly sorry that I have to be here today not talking about the issues that are so, so important to our community,” Mark Murphy said at a press conference outside of his congressional campaign headquarters earlier this afternoon. “The issues of protecting Medicare, protecting Social Security, the issues of making sure the middle class gets their tax cuts, making sure that our children have a chance at a better future.”

Instead, Mr. Murphy said, he was drawn out to speak on the issue of Ofer Biton’s arrest for immigration fraud. Mr. Biton reportedly helped Mr. Grimm raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for his initial campaign and was a key figure in the original New York Times allegations that Mr. Grimm extorted money from a rabbi’s congregation.

“The community has come to me, voters have come to me, and they’re outraged,” he continued. “They’re outraged because our congressman, again, has engaged in bad behavior. His chief fundraiser in the last election cycle has been arrested. The communtiy has come to me and they’ve asked, and we ask, Michael Grimm give that money back. Give that $500,000 of illegal campaign contributions that you extorted from Rabbi Pinto and his congregation, give it back. Show the community you care. Show the community you have integrity. We’re so disappointed.”

The district Mr. Grimm and Mr. Murphy are vying for is a Republican-leaning swing district that, if it were not for the various controversies dogging Mr. Grimm, could have yielded an easy win for the telegenic freshman congressman. Accordingly, Democrats are hoping these controversies worsen enough to earn them a victory in November, which might be able to explain press conferences like the one held today.

Mr. Grimm doesn’t seem especially likely to honor Mr. Murphy’s request, however.  In a statement sent out in response to Mr. Murphy’s press conference, the incumbent congressman insisted that he acted completely within the realms of the law and argued Mr. Biton’s immigration fraud charges aren’t even related to the allegations concerning him in the first place.

“With regard to the media frenzy surrounding Ofer Biton’s arrest, Mr. Biton’s immigration matter has nothing whatsoever to do with me,” Mr. Grimm said. “The implication pushed in the media and by my opponent, attempting to tie me to this immigration-related arrest, is dishonest, malicious and evidence of how dirty politics is the weapon of choice by my opponents. I will state yet again for the record that the bogus allegations lodged against me are 100% baseless and any fair inquiry will reveal that. To date only one inquiry has been completed: the OCE investigation resulting in a bipartisan, unanimous vote to dismiss all charges.”

He also claimed that Mr. Biton wasn’t even a fundraiser for his 2010 campaign.

“As I stated publicly in February, Mr. Biton was Rabbi Pinto’s right-hand assistant and he was not my fundraiser,” he said. “Any donations that I received from followers of the Rabbi were respectfully and legally obtained.”

As is the matter of course, Mr. Grimm’s campaign also released a statement from his political mentor, former Borough President Guy Molinari, taking the hammer to Mr. Murphy.

“This kid just doesn’t get it!” Mr. Molinari exclaimed. “The biggest insult to Michael Grimm so far is that this loser is his challenger. He is completely unqualified; has failed at just about everything he ever did; and is so void of leadership experience, he couldn’t lead a little league team to victory.”

But two can play that game and at today’s press conference, Mr. Murphy had his own words for Mr. Grimm, calling him unfit to serve.

“This is not a one-time occurrence, this is a multiple pattern of behavior from a guy who is unfit to be a United State Congressman,” he said after ticking off the string of controversial incidents surrounding Mr. Grimm since the start of the year. “He’s unfit to represent the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn. I’m so disappointed that I can’t have a conversation with him about the real issues because all we end up doing is getting something from the press that  he did something stupid.”

View the full response from Mr. Grimm’s campaign below:

Rep. Michael Grimm Statement: 

“After spending 18 of the last 20 years in Hollywood, CA failing as an actor, one would think that my opponent would give up the theatrics and that is exactly what his stunt was today:  him acting the fool.  He has held multiple press conferences now all focused on slinging mud at my character and reputation, but never once has he offered a single original idea about what matters to the hard working people of Staten Island and Brooklyn.  He hasn’t concerned himself with the prescription drug epidemic, the needs of our growing special needs population, our seniors, the fact that the Port Authority is destroying our local economy with devastating tolls, or offered any plan on how to create jobs. 

“Here is a news flash for my opponent: regardless of how hard the media and Congressman Steve Israel, the head of the DCCC, try to besmirch my name with lies, innuendos and distorted facts, my true character and integrity will shine through to the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn.  My character was instilled in me from my humble upbringing and my service in the Marine Corps and the FBI.  Moreover, my honor was earned with blood, sweat and tears multiple times over –  not only on the battlefield where I was recognized for valor, or deep undercover as a Special Agent in harm’s way –  but right here in Staten Island and Brooklyn where every single day I work relentlessly to make our community a better place to live for all of us, regularly sacrificing my personal life to serve this place I proudly call home and this great nation. 

“With regard to the media frenzy surrounding Ofer Biton’s arrest, Mr. Biton’s immigration matter has nothing whatsoever to do with me.  The implication pushed in the media and by my opponent, attempting to tie me to this immigration-related arrest, is dishonest, malicious and evidence of how dirty politics is the weapon of choice by my opponents.  I will state yet again for the record that the bogus allegations lodged against me are 100% baseless and any fair inquiry will reveal that. To date only one inquiry has been completed: the OCE investigation resulting in a bipartisan, unanimous vote to dismiss all charges.  As I stated publicly in February, Mr. Biton was Rabbi Pinto’s right-hand assistant and he was not my fundraiser.  Any donations that I received from followers of the Rabbi were respectfully and legally obtained.”

Former Rep. and SI Borough President Guy Molinari said the following on Mark Murphy: 

“This kid just doesn’t get it! The biggest insult to Michael Grimm so far is that this loser is his challenger.  He is completely unqualified; has failed at just about everything he ever did; and is so void of leadership experience, he couldn’t lead a little league team to victory.  I’ve asked people who have met him, including many Democrats, and they all say he is arrogant and feels entitled to run for Congress because his dad held the seat.  The irony is that he keeps bringing up the FBI investigation when the cold, hard fact is that there is only one person involved in this race that was arrested by the FBI and convicted of a felony and that is his father (running his campaign behind the scenes) who disgraced all of Staten Island and the US Congress when he was imprisoned for his role in Operation Abscam.  Hollywood Mark should crawl back under the California rock he came from and worry about paying the tax lien he owes on his CA home instead of worrying about Michael Grimm,  whom I know to be a hero, a proven leader and a great fighter for the people Staten Island and Brooklyn.”

After Biton Arrest, Murphy Calls On Grimm to Return $500,000