By Paula Katinas
BAY RIDGE — U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm is increasingly becoming the target of rumor and speculation as his re-election campaign begins in earnest.
The latest news came on March 2, when the Washington D.C.-based website www.rollcall.com reported that former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner contacted the FBI back in the fall of 2010 about Grimm, who was then running for Congress.
Weiner confirmed to the website that he contacted the FBI after a prominent rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, complained to him that Grimm had tried to extort him for campaign contributions.
The Associated Press reported on March 3 that the FBI is considering opening an investigation of Grimm.
Weiner resigned from office in June following a “sexting” scandal.
Last week, The New York Times published an editorial calling on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Grimm.
Grimm is currently running for his second term in office. The Republican-Conservative lawmaker represents the 13th Congressional District, a seat that covers the entire borough of Staten Island, the entire Brooklyn communities of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, and parts of Gravesend.
Grimm’s office did not return phone calls on the latest news surrounding the congressman. But Grimm, who marched in the Staten Island Saint Patrick’s Parade on March 4, told NY1 News that the whole thing was nonsense.
“Listen, the whole thing is nonsense and it’s designed to be a smear campaign and to distract me from what I do everyday, fighting for Staten Island and Brooklyn, and it’s not going to work,” Grimm told the television station.
A Democratic lawmaker said it’s too soon to tell if Grimm is in any trouble in terms of his re-election effort.
“I really don’t know. If the accusations are true, then he’s in trouble. But the accusations themselves might not be a problem with the electorate,” said the Democrat, who spoke to the Eagle on the condition that his name not be used.
“You have to remember that most of his district is on Staten Island and they love him over there,” the Democrat said. “Accusations are not a problem for him. A conviction would be.”
It’s unclear how long an FBI probe would take, if one is launched. Grimm, a former FBI agent, could have the specter of a federal investigation hanging over him as he campaigns for re-election.
But if Grimm is troubled by all of the controversy swirling around him, he isn’t showing it.
He happily accepted the endorsement of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) on March 5 and appeared with union leaders at a Staten Island press conference.
“As a 9/11 first responder, he worked alongside our brothers in the FDNY as a proud New Yorker. The Uniformed Fire Officers Association looks forward to a long, productive relationship with Congressman Michael Grimm in the months and years to come,” UFOA President Al Hagen said.
Grimm worked at Ground Zero in the days and weeks after the Sept. 11 attack, assisting in the recovery effort. He was an FBI agent at the time.
“I am truly honored to receive the endorsement from the UFOA,” Grimm said in a prepared statement. “I pledge to continue my unwavering support for our nation’s first responders, particularly in the areas of improving working conditions and technology, and by ensuring that they have all the resources they need to do the job as safely and effectively as possible.”
It marked the second time in a week that Grimm had picked up a union endorsement. On Feb. 27, Grimm held a press conference in John Paul Jones Park to announce that he was accepting the endorsement of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council Number 9.