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House ethics panel to announce results of complaint probe vs. Tim Bishop

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton)

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) Credit: Charlie Archambault, 2012

WASHINGTON -- The House Ethics Committee Friday confirmed an investigation has been conducted into a complaint against Rep. Tim Bishop for a campaign email asking a constituent he was helping about making a donation, and said it will announce the results by mid-September.

The complaint, which opponents of the Southampton Democrat made into a major issue in last year's election, has been under review by the independent six-member Office of Congressional Ethics, the committee said in a notice that it published on Friday.

The committee did not reveal the findings or conclusion of the office, which sent its report on Bishop to the committee on June 13, the notice said.

The committee, led by the chairman, Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), and ranking Democrat, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), extended its review of the matter and will report whatever action it will take by Sept. 11, the notice said.

"As I have said many times, I welcome a fair-minded review of the facts because I have done nothing wrong," Bishop said in a statement Friday.

Smithtown Councilman Robert Creighton, who backed Bishop's Republican challenger Randy Altschuler, filed the complaint last August.

Creighton on Friday said neither the House Ethics Committee nor Office of Congressional Ethics has contacted him.

The complaint cited published reports that Bishop's campaign sought a contribution from a constituent he was helping, a charge Bishop denied.

The reports said hedge fund investor Eric Semler sought Bishop's help obtaining environmental permits on May 21, 2012, to allow fireworks at his home for his son's bar mitzvah.

As the permits were pending, reports say Molly Bishop, the congressman's daughter and campaign fundraiser, on May 23, 2012, emailed Semler asking about a donation of up to $10,000.

In June 2012, Semler and his wife gave $5,000 to Bishop's campaign. Bishop later donated that money to charity.

Creighton charged that Bishop solicited the contribution. Bishop said his daughter was following up on Semler's offer to donate.

The complaint alleges Bishop sought a quid pro quo for helping a constituent, which it called an illegal act and a violation of ethics rules.

The Ethics Committee is expected to decide the case on whether there was direct evidence of a quid pro quo, something that is very hard to prove, according to ethics attorneys.

Bishop has used $35,000 in campaign funds to pay attorneys at Dechert LLP and Perkins Coie from July 2012 to July 2013 on the ethics case.

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