Conservative seeks Bishop ethics probe

Robert J. Creighton, shown while he served as Robert J. Creighton, shown while he served as Suffolk Police Commisioner, a term that lasted from April 1992 to Oct. 1992. (April 14, 1992) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas R. Koeniges

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A Smithtown Conservative has formally requested that the Office of Congressional Ethics investigate Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) on allegations his campaign improperly solicited a donation from a constituent who sought his help obtaining a local fireworks permit.

Town Councilman Robert Creighton, a former Suffolk County police commissioner, sent a letter to congressional ethics staff on Friday. Creighton cited a recently published Politico story detailing Bishop's efforts to help a Southampton hedge fund investor obtain a permit for a bar mitzvah fireworks display at his home.

The story says Bishop's re-election campaign sent a May 23 email to the constituent, Eric Semler, requesting a donation. The email came two days after Semler asked Bishop for help, and just before the issue was resolved, Politico said.

Bishop said his staff was simply following up on a donation inquiry Semler had previously made and was not making a solicitation in connection with an official action, which is against House Ethics policy.

But Creighton in his letter says it "seems clear that Representative Bishop and/or his staff clearly violated House Ethics Rules, and may very well have violated criminal bribery and illegal gratuities statutes."

Bishop's Republican opponent, St. James businessman Randy Altschuler, has also seized on the issue. In 2010, Bishop edged Altschuler by 593 votes.

Now, Altschuler is calling for federal probes of the permit allegation, which Bishop said he welcomes if they're impartial.

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"I believe any fair-minded review of the facts of this case will conclude what I already know: I have done nothing wrong," Bishop said. "If there's a review, we'd be happy to participate."

The Office of Congressional Ethics describes itself as a "non-partisan entity" charged with reviewing misconduct allegations involving House members and their staffs. A spokeswoman said Monday she could not comment on investigation requests.

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