Updates will be at the end of the post, we will continue to update
Tim Bishop, D-CD-1, has a new scandal surrounding him, and this one even hit the front pages of left-leaning Politico.
It seems a Mr. Semler of Southampton wanted Grucci fireworks for his son’s Bar Mitzvah. The environmentalists presented a problem because of the local wildlife, which includes the Piping Plover. Grucci Fireworks couldn’t get the necessary government permits. Mr. Semler then contacted his congressman, Tim Bishop.
Bishop said he’d help but first his campaign staff asked for a contribution up to $10,000 for his re-election campaign; this is according to the documents obtained by Politico which show that his daughter Molly Bishop, who is also her father’s fundraiser, did make such a request three days before the party:
“Our Finance Chair, Bob Sillerman suggested to my dad that you were interested in contribution to his campaign and that I should be in touch directly with you. We are going to be in a tough, expensive campaign and so we are very grateful for your willingness to be of help,” the congressman’s daughter and fundraiser, Molly Bishop, wrote to Semler in a May 23 email, three days before the party, when it was still unknown whether the permits would come through.
“If you make a contribution before June 26th you and your wife may each contribute up to $5,000; after June 26th the most you can each contribute is $2,500,” she added.
Bishop received $5,000 from Semler on June 26th.
Bishop said he did not solicit the money and Semler said the solicitation occurred before the event. It doesn’t matter, as a member of congress, neither he nor his staff can solicit or accept a campaign contribution tied to an official action
As for Semler, a few days after the party he complained in an email to employees of Grucci Firework that Bishop “didn’t hestitate to solicit me in the heat of battle” and called the request, for up to $10,000, “really gross.” [Politico]
Bishop claims Semler only said that because he wanted his money back. The fireworks show had to be held from Semler’s roof and one fireworks display damaged a neighbor’s Bentley to the tune of $7500. So Semler is a liar and conniver according to Bishop.
Semler, a former NY Times reporter, refused several requests for interviews by Politico until Bishop called him. On that day, Semler agreed to the interview with Politico and changed his story completely. He criticized Grucci and heaped praise on Bishop. I have no problem with Mr. Semler, a Hedge fund manager, because I think he is a victim himself. Bishop is the power broker.
Mr. Semler now says the donation to Mr. Bishop did not coincide with the event but a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist did not approve the fireworks show until May 25, two days after Molly Bishop had already contacted Semler about how to contribute to her father’s campaign.
Mr. Semler now says he was happy to donate to Mr. Bishop and who wouldn’t want to [Well, I for one]. Mr. Semler never donated to Mr. Bishop prior to this.
Scandal has surrounded Bishop since his days as Provost of Southampton College when he fired the mostly Black custodians to save money as he drove the school into the ground. He did this even though he hired about ten relatives to work at the college.
More recently, Congressman Bishop had a billionaire campaign donor, Robert Sillerman, foot the bill for Molly and her sister to attend college.
This was a deal both Newsday and independent ethics watchdogs condemned. [NY Liberty Report]
While Molly Bishop was founding her fundraising company, she worked on her father’s campaign and was hired by him at the same time. She made $430,000 in 2006 alone and the checks went right to her father’s office where she worked for his campaign.
The relationship between government and the people is not supposed to include payoffs to campaigns. It will be interesting to see where this one goes.
And what about the Piping Plovers? They are important until someone with money comes along?
Update: 8:15:12: To be fair, Mr. Bishop did counteract with the following lame excuse,
Bishop told Politico, “When we fast-track a passport request, and when people get back from Europe and send me $100 in gratitude, is that coercion? No.”
A hundred dollars is a far cry from $10,000 and it wasn’t done as a thank you after-the-fact according to Politico’s documentation.
Statement by Bishop’s opponent, Randy Altschuler,
“We are dismayed by today’s explosive story in Politico detailing how Congressman Tim Bishop apparently sought up to $10,000 in campaign contributions from local resident Eric Semler in exchange for Bishop’s congressional office securing expedited approval on special environmental permits for a private fireworks show at Semler’s Southampton home.
On the heels of a non-partisan ethics group criticizing Congressman Bishop for abusing his power to funnel nearly $600,000 to a family member and their business, and his admission that he put ten family members on the payroll at debt-ridden Southampton College when he was in charge there, today’s story clearly demonstrates a pattern of unethical and, in this case, possibly illegal behavior by a career politician who has been in Washington for too long.
In reading Congressman Bishop’s defense, it’s stunningly clear that after ten years in Congress he doesn’t even understand House Ethics rules, which clearly state that soliciting campaign contributions of any size linked with official action is strictly prohibited, especially when the request for official action is pending or has occurred.
In closing, we agree with Mr. Semler, that Molly Bishop’s inappropriate and unethical email soliciting him for a sizable campaign contribution while the fate of the fireworks permit hung in the balance was ‘really gross.’ What the residents of Suffolk County are entitled to know is whether it was a crime.”