Bar mitzvah fireworks have N.Y.-area congressman in hot water

NEW YORK (JTA) — A suburban New York congressman was accused of soliciting donations from a constituent who sought the lawmaker’s help in gaining government permits for a bar mitzvah fireworks show.

Eric Semier of Southampton, N.Y., was throwing the bash for his son and needed the help of Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) to get government permits to put the fireworks on display, according to Politico. Before Bishop and his aides completed their work on his behalf, Semier claims, he received a request from the Long Island congressman’s campaign staff for a contribution of up to $10,000 to Bishop’s reelection campaign.

Bishop, who represents a swing district on Long Island, faces Republican Randy Altschuler in November in what is expected to be a close race. Bishop beat Altschuler two years ago by 593 votes.

Semier said he gave $5,000 and claimed the congressman’s staff solicited him.

The House Ethics Manual states that “a solicitation for campaign or political contributions may not be linked with an official action taken or to be taken by a House Member or employee, and a Member may not accept any contribution that is linked with an action that the Member has taken or is being asked to take.”

“I did my job," Bishop said, according to Politico. "I was asked to fix a problem for a constituent that I did not create. I fixed it.

“I never directly solicited him. We told him how he could help. And then a month later, he helped.”
 

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