Rep. Michael Grimm goes toe to toe with Murphy supporter at debate

Grimm can’t escape campaign corruption claims

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Republican Rep. Michael Grimm can’t escape the campaign corruption allegations hanging over his head — even when his Democratic challenger doesn’t show up for a debate and he’s facing a room full of supporters.

The freshman legislator shut down a debate attendee with a thinly veiled threat during last night’s Dyker Heights Civic Association meeting — which was packed with Grimm fans and moderated by his aide and Brooklyn Conservative party chairwoman Fran-Vella Marrone — when Jonathan Yedin, a Brooklyn Democratic party staffer who is supporting congressional candidate Mark Murphy, demanded to know why so many of Grimm’s associates have been arrested in the last year.

Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) denied any knowledge of the immigration fraud charges against Ofer Biton, who some claim collected illegal campaign contributions for the freshman legislator in 2010. But when Yedin interrupted his answer, Grimm got testy.

“Have a little respect. And if you don’t have any, I’d be happy to teach it to you,” Grimm said, just moments after explaining how he’s been spending more time in Bay Ridge and attends regular work outs at a Fifth Avenue boxing gym. “When you ask me about somebody I know who knows somebody who’s been arrested, I can’t answer that.”

Despite the tense exchange — which Grimm supporters welcomed with a round of applause — Yedin said he didn’t feel threatened by Grimm’s sharp retort.

“I live in the district and I just wanted to ask my representative in Congress a question about something that’s been reported about in all the major publicatio­ns,” he said.

Tuesday’s debate should have been a cakewalk for the freshman legislator given that Murphy was a no-show.

Vella-Marrone said she invited the former aide to Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, one-time television actor, and son of disgraced former Congressman Jack Murphy, but received an email from Murphy’s campaign manager claiming that the candidate had another engagement.

“We wish we could have had a real debate tonight,” Vella-Marrone said, before giving Grimm the floor.

A spokesman for the Murphy campaign said that the Democratic challenger had three meetings on Tuesday night that could not be moved.

“He simply cannot attend every community meeting and community forum, though he wishes he could,” said Murphy spokesman Dan Morris.

Grimm defeated incumbent Democrat Mike McMahon in 2010, riding a wave of Tea Party support that swept Republicans into office nationwide.

But, according to a scathing New York Times article, some of the campaign donations used to defeat McMahon were obtained illegally with Biton’s help.

Grimm has not been charged with a crime and has not been linked to Biton’s current legal woes, but the legislator has gone to great lengths to separate himself from the former aide to a prominent Manhattan rabbi.

“He was not my fund-raiser,” Grimm said shortly after Biton’s arrest in August, noting that a Congressional Ethics Committee cleared him of the allegations months earlier. “Any donations that I received from followers of the Rabbi were respectfully and legally obtained.”

Contributors say Biton and Grimm collected large cash donations from Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto’s followers many of whom were Israeli citizens who couldn’t contribute to an American political campaign.

Other candidates attending the Dyker Heights Civic Association debate night included state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and his democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes, and Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island) and Republican challenger Tom McCarthy.

Reach reporter Thomas Tracy at ttracy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2525.

Updated 3:28 pm, October 10, 2012: Updated for clarity.
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Reader Feedback

Dirk says:
Newspapers say you're a bad guy, attack the newspapers. Constituents ask a question you don't wanna answer, attack your constituents. What a great Congressman we have! I am so proud of him.
Oct. 10, 2012, 12:40 pm
Ralph from Bay Ridge says:
I heard him say this last night. What a putz! Of course the crowd loved it. These are the people in the neighborhood that miss knife fights in the street. Its the only way they know how to solve a disagreement.

Grimm also said "Marty Golden for President." He lost my vote twice last night.
Oct. 10, 2012, 1:35 pm
Bill from Dyker Heights says:
Why didn't Yedin ever publicly ask Murphy why he is living with a convicted felon who committed crimes against the state? Just curious.
Oct. 10, 2012, 3:05 pm
Tim from Bay Ridge says:
Because Jack Murphy did his time and whats done is done. He's a free man. Plus one has nothing to do with the other. One was done by a man's dad. The other has been a recurring theme throughout a mans adult life. There's a pattern.

But if your the type of guy who thinks we should blame a man's son for his dad's sins then your probably a good bet to support Grimm.
Oct. 10, 2012, 3:21 pm
James from Staten Island says:
I would be more concerned about a candidate that was raised and still lives with a convicted felon.....rather than concern myself with the Good Congressman who may know someone who is associated to someone that someone said may have committed some crime. The Dems are poking away because they have another empty chair as a candidate for Congress.
Jack Murphy was crooked and made shadey deals his entire career....
Oct. 10, 2012, 7:26 pm
Answers from Staten Island says:
Grimm did make Carlos Luquis a business partner knowing that he had exploited 9/11 for personal gain and embezzled over $2 millino from Texas.

Grimm has supported Jonathan Pollard, a man who renounced his citizenship after he stole secret information and provided it to a foreign country.

Grimm did ask a judge that Thomas Kontogiannis, a man who funnelled over $1 million in bribes to former Rep. Cunningham serve zero time in jail.

Grimm did have as a business partner Orfaly Nennett, a man with ties to a leading capo in the Gambino family, the latter of which is serving a twenty year jail sentence. This begs the question, how did Grimm meet up with Orfaly, essentially how did they become business partners? Grimm who was working in the organized crime squad at the FBI just happened to later conveniently meet a man tied to the mafia who became a willing partner in a health food restaurant in the city. This same man who has put up the $1.5 million bail to get Ofer Biton out of jail. The same Ofer Biton who helped Grimm fundraise. The same Ofer Biton who was part of a drug ring a decade ago.

The "Good Congressman" is either clueless about who he deals with, a notion that goes against his purported claims of being the greatest gift to the FBI, or he believes everyone else is an idiot. I believe the latter.
Oct. 10, 2012, 7:36 pm
Betty Ann from Bensonhurst says:
If Grimm is such a "Good Man" why is the FBI currently investigating him, not so-called associates? Pick up the NY Post, the Times and Daily News, Grimm is there story almost daily. Where there is smoke, there is always fire..
Oct. 10, 2012, 8:11 pm
Justin from Bay Ridge says:
Isn't Yedin a paid democratic party staffer for creep Vito Lopez? I guess we should be asking Yedin what he knows about the Lopez scandal...

Oct. 10, 2012, 9:02 pm
Mario from Molinariland says:
Yedin is a creep. But he is not a congressman, Grimm is.
Oct. 10, 2012, 10:04 pm
Tom from Bay Ridge says:
I'm not suprised. Grimm is a thug. He associates with criminals (austin refuel), takes money from foreigners (followers of Rabbi Pinto)and cheats employees out of their wages (Healthalicious). So why should anyone be suprised that he physically threatens his own constituents?
Oct. 10, 2012, 11:47 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
I don't think Grimm is a criminal just sloppy and stupid. The way he lost the Independance Party line was particularly amatuerish.
Oct. 10, 2012, 11:49 pm

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