Democratic Rep. Caught Extorting Donations

Tim Bishop / Wikimedia Commons

Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop (N.Y.) appears to have extorted a $5,000 donation from a wealthy constituent who needed help obtaining some government permits, according to Politico.

The donor, Eric Semler, had wanted to celebrate his son’s Bar Mitzvah—the time when a Jewish boy enter manhood—by shooting off some heavy duty fireworks near his home.

To help get the permits needed to launch the fireworks, Semler petitioned Bishop’s office for help, according to the report:

Bishop agreed to intercede. But before Bishop and his aides completed their work on his behalf, Semler received a request from the congressman’s campaign staff, according to documents obtained by POLITICO and multiple interviews: For a contribution of up to $10,000 to Bishop’s reelection campaign.

"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.

Semler now maintains that Bishop’s staff solicited him before the permitting process was complete, a sign that the lawmaker was looking for a donation in return for his help, according to the report.

This appears to conflict with House ethical guidelines, Politico notes:

This prohibition includes campaign contributions offered to a lawmaker by a supporter, especially when a request for official action is pending or has occurred. "In a similar vein, a Member or employee may not accept any contribution that the donor links to any official action that the Member or employee has taken, or is being asked to take," the manual adds.