For Long Island congressman, a bar mitzvah-gate?


A Long Island Democratic congressman locked in a tight race against a Jewish Republican has a potential scandal on his hands — tied to a bar mitzvah.

Politico has the story:


Eric Semler wanted to throw his son a Bar Mitzvah bash that he would never forget — capped by a fireworks show near the hedge fund investor’s Southampton, N.Y., home — but he needed Rep. Tim Bishop’s help.

The fireworks company Semler hired hadn’t received government permits needed to put on the display. So on May 21, with the party just five days away, Semler contacted the Democratic congressman and asked for his help.

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.

Semler and his wife gave $5,000. But he and Bishop, Politico reports, have conflicting accounts of how the topic of a donation was raised: Bishop says Semler mentioned it first to say thanks, while Semler says he was solicited by Bishop’s staff.

But, as Politico notes: “House ethics rules don’t make that distinction: A member or his staff can’t solicit or accept a campaign contribution tied to an official action.”

Bishop is facing a touch reelection fight against Randy Altschuler, who is often mentioned as the Republican’s best shot to get a second Jewish GOPer elected to the House and who narrowly lost to Bishop in 2010. The Rothenberg Political Report rates the district a "Toss-up/Tilt Democrat."

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