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UPDATED: Bishop Defends Campaign Finance Practices

Politico reported that Bishop's office asked a wealthy Southampton resident for money after helping him with a request; Bishop turns the donation over to nonprofits in response to controversy.

Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton, is firing back at a Politico.com report that claims the five-term congressman's re-election campaign tried to shake down a wealthy Southampton resident in exchange for a favor.

In the story, Politico said Eric Semler, a hedge fund manager, needed help getting a fireworks permit as part of his son's Bar Mitzvah party in late May. With the celebration date fast approaching, he turned to Bishop for help. Bishop's daughter and fundraiser, Molly Bishop, then emailed Semler looking for a campaign contribution, according to the report.

But Bishop said Semler's request and any solicitations from his campaign were in no way connected.

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.”

In the story, Semler also defended Bishop, saying "Tim never said anything to me about a donation. I didn’t know he was running for re-election. After the fact, after I got the permit, I did receive a request for a donation. He didn’t tell me, one of his campaign people told me, that he was in a hot race and needed a lot of support. I would love to support a guy like that.”

But Bishop's challenger, Republican Randy Altschuler, of St. James, seized on the controversy.

"In reading Congressman Bishop’s defense, it’s stunningly clear that after 10 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," said Diana Weir, Altschuler's campaign manager, in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

Weir called Molly Bishop's solicitation "inappropriate and unethical" and suggested that it may even be criminal.

Bishop in turn sent out a statement Wednesday evening rebuking the Altschuler campaign.

“I am deeply troubled by Randy Altschuler, senior executives in the Grucci fireworks company, Diana Weir, a former Felix Grucci political operative, teaming up to make outrageous, unfounded attacks on my character and my family," Bishop stated. "Given their history of making unfounded personal attacks on me, these new reckless accusations of criminal activity should not be a surprise."

Bishop was first elected to Congress in 2002 when he defeated one-term Rep. Felix Grucci.

His campaign noted that "out of an abundance of caution," Bishop donated the Semlers' campaign contributions to charities that benefit veterans, Long Island 9-1-1 Veterans, Honor Flight Long Island, and U.S. Veterans Motorcycle Club Long Island Chapter.

Do you think the request for a donation was fair game? Let us know in the comments.

Click here to read the entire article on Politico.

Archie Bunker August 24, 2012 at 08:02 PM
We do have term limits - it's called voting. People complain all the time about the current status quo but we keep sending the same bozo's back. How bout if you cant get the job done in the term allotted, you do get to keep your job. And the reason for the terms are: House - 2 years: supposed to be a dynamic body that is responsive to national trends and representative of the citizens Senate - 6 years: supposed to be a slower-moving, more deliberative body that is less responsive to trends in order to think ahead better and be representative of the state
Jonathan Baker August 24, 2012 at 09:24 PM
@Joan I agree that the whole reason "America is dying" is due to voter apathy. Certainly voter apathy has allowed a "two-party" system to take hold and allowed it to exclude other parties through the imposition of tough and expensive rules for getting on the ballot in the various states. Citizens' apathy has allowed media to be slowly morphed into extensions of the two parties. Was there ever an in-depth expose` on the true reasons for starting the Iraq war? Or have there been warnings blasted over the pending Trans-Pacific Pact - NAFTA for Asia? Or any indignation raised over the Patriot Act or FISA? Where is the editorial complaint over the degradation travelers experience every day at our airports? Why haven't travelers opposed such degradation en-mass? I was excited to see young people work so hard to support Ron Paul - they were getting INVOLVED! The "party" and the media made sure that Dr. Paul was "ignored" despite the amazing story that was there to be written. It is hard not to give up in the face of such control. BUT, it won't change until voters rise up and make themselves heard by voting their conscience, not their party. It may be too late.....
Brendan J. O'Reilly August 28, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Here is a follow-up on this story: http://patch.com/A-xtyk
Francis G. Gibbons Sr. August 31, 2012 at 08:54 PM
So we don't want Tim Bishop because he did something far less egregious than John Mcain did when he was both a congressman and an admitted member of the Keating five. The question is, Is Randy Altschuler any better? He claims to have created jobs while he moved approximately 10,000 jobs to India ! He first tried to run for office in New Jersey. When they wouldn't have him he came here. I remember when they asked John Dillinger, why he robbed banks. He answered, "Because that's were the money is". Why does Randy want so much to go to Washington? I personally don't want Randy or Tim. The real question should be, why is it so hard for Suffolk County's political leaders to find good candidates?
Stanley Rudman September 01, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Do the term limits advocates want to throw out Vecchio, who has been Smithtown town supervisor since 1978. And by the way before that he was on the New York City police force, where he no doubt belong to the UNION. By my figuring he has collected a retirement pension for more years than he served.

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