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.

Jaguar-Guy August 22, 2012 at 10:53 AM
That Ad was run once - I believe. Ok HH - "people should pay MORE attention to what Ads do NOT imply, rather than what they do". Do you read what you write? What about an Ad showing a college campus and showing foreign students getting scholarships, while the voice-over says Obama won't release his transcripts - what's he hiding? The implication is that he is NOT a citizen, but the "point" of the Ad is really to see what grades he got to earn his scholarship - come on. You can spin and spin and spin, you lose. It was one of the most despicable Ads ever - and pulled as it should have been.
forward thinking August 22, 2012 at 11:40 AM
RockyPointDiver August 22, 2012 at 12:46 PM
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.” Coercion? No, but still a clear and obvious violation of House Ethics rules in that it ties a payment to an official act - a fact that seems to elude Congressman Bishop. Whether it's $100 or $10,000 makes no difference, it's a violation. It's like the old joke about the woman who accepts a $1million offer for sex and is then outraged when the offer is changed to $50. "What kind of girl do you think I am?" she protests, to which the man replies "I thought we'd already established that... now we're just haggling over price." Well Mr. Bishop, I think you're $100 analogy just established what kind of congressman you are.
John Gruber August 22, 2012 at 02:27 PM
you're probably not aware as far as I can tell, but politicians have very little to do with the price of gas, you know, this thing called capitalism aka supply and demand, as in, when demand goes up so does price. see, now can stop posting dumb things like politicians controlling the price of gas
highhatsize August 22, 2012 at 03:05 PM
to RockyPointDiver: Quote: "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.” Coercion? No, but still a clear and obvious violation of House Ethics rules in that it ties a payment to an official act - a fact that seems to elude Congressman Bishop. Whether it's $100 or $10,000 makes no difference, it's a violation." You are misreading the rules. According to your interpretation, a congressman would be prohibited from accepting a donation from anyone for whom he had every performed constituent service. Furthermore, in every "crime", the element of "mens rea" (evil intent) as well as the evil act ("actus reus") must be present for the behavior to be criminal. Since Tim Bishop did not perceive the donation as a quid-pro-quo for his service, he is not culpable, just as he is not culpable of an ethics violation for accepting a $100 donation from someone for whom he expedited a passport. Congressmen live and die on the basis of constituent service (Thank god!) Your senator could not be less approachable if he lived on the moon but your rep will actually DO things for you if you present a cogent request that is feasible. Unfortunately, among the thousands of requests from honorable constituents that a congressman processes, there will be an occasional devious stinker.
Algebra August 22, 2012 at 03:36 PM
You can't ever admit defeat, can you Hat?
RockyPointDiver August 22, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I'm not misinterpreting anything, I never said congressmen are prohibited from accepting donations from anyone they've performed constituent services for, but when Bishop states "send me $100 in gratitude" he's acknowledging the direct connection between the money and the service. Even giving Bishop the benefit of a doubt that he's talking about a campaign contribution and not a direct, personal gift, that's still an ethics violation. And I believe you're the one misreading the rules; firstly, strict liability laws do not require mens rea to apply, and attendant circumstances often replace traditional mens rea culpability. But even so, you can't just "perceive" the rules however you want to.
highhatsize August 22, 2012 at 04:07 PM
to RockyPointDiver: The reason for a constituent's donation (e.g. "gratitude") says nothing about a congressman's reason for performing constituent service. If he didn't act in expectation of a payoff, he's not culpable. Are you seriously asserting that the Ethics Committee rules are strict liability? I don't read any language therein to suggest that.
highhatsize August 22, 2012 at 04:08 PM
to Algebra: Would any of us be having fun if I did?
highhatsize August 22, 2012 at 04:32 PM
to Jaguar-Guy: It is Republican critics who assert the falsehood that he ad claimed that Romney killed the steelworker's wife. What the ad SAYS is that the steelworker's debased living conditions are the result of Bain Capital putting GST steel into bankruptcy (after extracting $$100M in profit) which is FACT. On the other hand, the steelworker asserts as a matter of BELIEF that Romney didn't care which is not subject to but which "I" also believe. As for Obama's transcripts, "I" certainly never thought that the reason for demanding their release was that they would show Obama to be a foreign student. Rather, the reason is the belief that they will show that he manipulated his status as a minority and as a nominal foreign student (i.e. two foreign fathers) to gain admission to colleges for which he did not qualify academically and to obtain financial aid.
RockyPointDiver August 22, 2012 at 04:44 PM
No, I was just pointing out one example of an exception to your absolute statement that mens rea must be present "in every crime"... never say never or always. :-) If the House Ethics Manual states that “a Member may not accept any contribution that is linked with an action that the Member has taken or is being asked to take.” then his "expectation" (or claimed expectation) doesn't matter - by his own words in his passport example he's linking the money as "gratitude" for an action he took... and he should know better. Apparently he doesn't.
John Gruber August 22, 2012 at 05:04 PM
you know its funny, the people who fund campaigns often get laws and regulations made in their favor but you never see anyone complaining about those "bribes"
Factual August 23, 2012 at 12:07 AM
It's not true that people do not complain about these bribes. There are many complaints. In this case the "bribe" as J. Gruber describes it was so blatant and so much of a pay off that you can't dispute this was pay for play. Bishop is finished. He has been walking the ethical fine line for years and now his arrogance has landed him on the wrong side to the point that he cannot rationalize his way out of it. It is all over for Tim and it may also result in censure or worse.
Carole Campolo August 23, 2012 at 03:33 AM
If accepting the $10,000 or $5,000, whatever the amount, was in keeping one hundred percent with the House ethics rules, then why did Bishop "donate" a $5,000 contribution to charity, in this case, veterans' organizations? He says it was out of an "abundance of caution." Caution for what? If the so-called contribution was legal, why give it away? I still don't understand that. Did he think if he did that he could convince the Ethics Committee or the press,from following up on this scandal? So much mystery here.
EG August 23, 2012 at 10:26 AM
He donated to those groups because he's behind in the military vote. With all the publicity surrounding this story, he received the same value for those donations as if he were to have spent it on advertising.
Preliator August 23, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Tim Bishop has lost his way, we'll be doing him a favor by firing him and letting him reconnect with his family and his home town. Help Tim Bishop this fall, fire his ass.
Preliator August 23, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Bishop's defense in that he donated the money from the extortion scam to veterans group is akin to a bank robber giving the money he stole to a charity; it does not change the fact he engaged in an illicit and unethical act. i find it rather sad that he would try to hide his crime by involving these veterans, it is a shame when politicians abuse our servicemen and women like this.
Joan August 24, 2012 at 07:04 PM
@robkoz You are opposed to unions because you know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about them. If you had paid attention in your history class you would know the history of unions and why they were and still are needed. You are on here a lot making a fool of yourself with your uninformed opinions and mis statements. You need a little more education and a little less enthusiasm for your chosen political party. You make statements that you obviously, heard somewhere, (FOX) and cannot cite a reliable source to back up your statements. You might want to have a little more respect for the other commenters here and a little less name calling.
Joan August 24, 2012 at 07:08 PM
@ANNMARIE We don't need term limits. We need INFORMED voters who pay attention to what their elected officials are doing to and how they vote on issues of importance; and STOP voting because of name recognition, the lies they tell us and T V ads. Term limits are for the lazy and the reason you think that they are needed is because lazy people keep voting the same corrupt politicians into office for DECADES.
John K Massaro August 24, 2012 at 07:10 PM
I agree with Lara - While there should be term limits, two years is barely enough time to even draw up most plans let alone have them okayed & set into motion...
Joan August 24, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Mary O'Connell As I posted before to Annmarie, we do NOT need term limits. We need intelligent, informed voters who pay attention to what their politicians are doing. Term limits are for the LAZY and are not a solution to the problem of corrupt politicians. Voters need to educate themselves and STOP voting for the same corrupt politicians for DECADES because of their party affiliation or name recognition. Don't' try to hand off your responsibility for the outcome of elections by imposing term limits.
Joan August 24, 2012 at 07:17 PM
@TOM A good news story should address both the accusation with supporting evidence and the defense in order not to be biased.
Joan August 24, 2012 at 07:20 PM
@DrSique @ Jaguar-Guy If the politician is corrupt DON'T VOTE FOR HIM. Problem solved. Also a little less disparaging name calling from you guys would be a good thing too.
Joan August 24, 2012 at 07:31 PM
All of you self righteous and pious critics of ethics violations really chap me. If you kept up with what your politicians were doing, and believe me there is plenty of information out there for those who want to know, these things would not come as a surprise to you. You are all so busy looking for faults in the other party guys that you neglect to see what your own party is up to. This goes for BOTH parties. PAY ATTENTION PEOPLE, if you knew what the politicians were really up to you would have reason for REAL outrage, and it would also scare the crap out of you. This is why our government is so hot to get it's hands on Julian Assange. They need to make an example out of him so that they can keep their crimes hidden. But the fact is that Americans just don't want to know or are too lazy to find out. THAT's the REAL ethics violation.
Joan August 24, 2012 at 07:36 PM
@DrSique You sir, make me sick. RE: "As a devout lib-turd," You should be ashamed of yourself for making remarks like that. You do it because you have no valid claims to make against the President or any workable plan that the Republicans have because they don't have one. Your name calling is infantile and ignorant.
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 (Editor) 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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