WASHINGTON -- Rep. Peter King's decision to help a friend's business by participating in an exhibition boxing match isn't the worst ethics violation, but it still clearly crosses the line, an ethics watchdog group said Thursday.
King (R-Seaford) has drawn wide attention for being willing to get into the ring with a fighter less than half his age, New York kickboxing champion Josh Foley. King said he's doing it to promote his friend and trainer Chris Cardona's for-profit kickboxing event at Mulcahy's Pub in Wantagh on Saturday.
But Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said King might have overlooked the House Code of Ethics requirement to avoid appearing to favor one business.
"It is an ethics violation. Is it the most serious violation in the world? No," she said. "But you're not allowed to do that. It's clear. It's not a gray area."
King, who sent out an email to his campaign list to advertise the event Wednesday, disagreed.
"Lending my time to a local gym and pub in the community in which I have absolutely no financial interest is part of my job as a congressman," he said.
King said he has high regard for Mulcahy's Pub, which has held fundraisers for families of police and firefighters killed or wounded in the line of duty.
"I believe it is entirely appropriate to assist businesses in my community, such as appearing at grand openings of new businesses or celebrating the expansion of current businesses," he said.
But Sloan said the House Code of Ethics says lawmakers should never "discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors" to one individual or to one commercial business.
Sloan said her group criticized Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island) in 2011 when he appeared in a promotional video for a friend's business. The video was taken down.
Washington ethics attorney Stanley Brand called the violation "trivial at best." Sloan said she won't file a complaint since the Ethics Committee would just tell King not to do it again.