09/12/13 2:00pm
09/12/2013 2:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Tim Bishop at a debate in Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Tim Bishop at a debate in Riverhead.

A congressional ethics report has recommended further investigations into allegations Rep. Tim Bishop violated House rules and federal law last year, saying there was a “substantial reason” to believe Mr. Bishop broke federal campaign finance rules.

The report, released Wednesday by the Office of Congressional Ethics, found there was reason to believe that Mr. Bishop helped a constituent get permits to hold a fireworks show, then had his staff ask the man for a campaign contribution as a quid pro quo.

The probe also found that Mr. Bishop’s campaign committee may have misreported a $5,000 contribution from the constituent’s company that broke the $2,500 per election limit.

“There is a substantial reason to believe that Representative Bishop sought a campaign contribution because of or in connection with an official act in violation of House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law,” according to the 117-page report.

The Office of Congressional Ethics has advised the House Committee on Ethics to further review the allegations.

Mr. Bishop has denied the allegations; his lawyers filed a response to the probe that called the allegations “deeply flawed.”

“The report released today confirms that the allegations made against me last summer were politically orchestrated and I am confident that the ongoing review of this matter will show that I acted in good faith to assist a constituent in need,” Mr. Bishop said in a statement.

Mr. Bishop allegedly helped Eric Semler, a Sagaponack hedge fund manager, get the necessary permits to hold a fireworks display for his son’s bar mitzvah on May 26, 2012, according to email evidence in the report.

After the permits were believed to be cleared, Mr. Bishop wrote an email to a close friend, Robert Sillerman, asking him to ask Mr. Semler for a contribution.

“We are all set with Eric Semler,” the email from Mr. Bishop detailed in the report states. “Hey, would you be willing to reach out to him to ask for a contribution? If he donates before June 26, he and his wife can each do 5 large – if it is after June 26, they can each do a max of 2500.”

Mr. Bishop’s response says that Mr. Semler was under no pressure to give a contribution, notes that Mr. Bishop did not personally contact him about a donation, and noted that Mr. Semler said in an interview in the report that he made the contribution because Rep. Bishop is a “stellar politician.”

The report also states that Mr. Bishops campaign misreported a $5,000 contribution from Mr. Semler’s company TCS Capital Management LLC as being two $2,500 from Mr. Semler and his wife. The campaign also reported the date of the contribution as June 26, not July 9 when the contribution was actually received, the report states.

Mr. Bishop’s attorneys said in his response that while the finding allege the campaign misreported the contribution, the re-election campaign “took reasonable steps” including hiring a FEC compliance official to report the contribution correctly.

House Committee on Ethics said in a statement that it will “continue to gather information necessary to complete its review” of the allegations against Mr. Bishop.

psquire@timesreview.com

07/17/12 5:00pm
07/17/2012 5:00 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter delivering his 'State of the Town' address in March.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter delivering his ‘State of the Town’ address in March.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter’s midyear campaign filings are in.

The reports, which were due July 15, show the second-term supervisor raised just over $7,000 so far in 2012, though Mr. Walter told the News-Review Monday — before the filings were posted to the state Board of Elections website — that he would be filing an amended report soon.

He said his campaign held a “big fundraiser” last Thursday, from which he had expected to raise some $10,000 to $12,000.

Mr. Walter spent about 70 percent of the money he’s raised so far, with the biggest chunk of change ($2,000) going to downtown resident Anthony Coates for political consultant fees. He paid Mr. Coates $1,000 in April and again in May, the records show.

His largest political donation of $1,500 came from Giorgios Catering LLC, which operates a catering hall in Baiting Hollow, though Mr. Walter had to return $464 of that money because of state campaign finance law. The maximum donation, which is tied to population, is $1,038 for Riverhead Town offices, Mr. Walter said.

The largest donation from a listed individual was $260 from John O’Connor of Blue Point.

Mr. Walter also listed seven contributions totaling $1,290 — the largest of which was $435 — from unnamed individuals, which happens if a campaign loses track of where a donation came from, say if the donation was cash.

Mr. Walter spent a total of $4,944.83 so far in 2012, leaving him with $2,092.52, not including returns from last week’s fundraiser.

“It’s tough to raise money and I don’t like to do it in an off election year, because you’re taking money from other candidates who are running,” Mr. Walter said in Monday’s interview. “We spent like $98,000 last year. We’ve shown our ability to be able to raise cash and I don’t know if anybody in a Town of Riverhead supervisor’s race ever raised that amount of money.

“And if we had to, we’d raise it again.”

mwhite@timesreview.com

07/17/12 4:59pm

FILE PHOTO | All five Riverhead Town Board members have filed their campaign finance reports for the first half of 2012.

All five Riverhead Town Board members and highway superintendent George ‘Gio” Woodson filed their mandatory campaign finance reports for the first half of 2012 this week.

Only Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman James Wooten reported receiving donations in the reports, which span from Jan. 15 to July 15 of this year.

You can view each of their reports right here on our site, by scrolling below:

Riverhead Campaign Finances — July, 2012

07/17/12 7:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten at the Town board work session in 2011.

Councilman James Wooten was the only Riverhead Town Council member out of four to raise campaign cash in the first half of 2012, a non-election year for the board, according to midyear campaign reports filed with the state Board of Elections.

Mr. Wooten raised $19,333, according to the reports, though he later explained a listed $3,696 contribution was a mistake that would be amended soon. Subtracting that amount, the filings show Mr. Wooten raised $15,637, most of which came from his annual “Rootin for Wooten” golf outing — his chief fundraiser — that was held in May at The Links at Cherry Creek.

This was the first non-election year Mr. Wooten held a golf outing, although he said he was advised last year to make the fundraiser an annual event. He filed a “no activity statement” for the first half of 2010, the last non-election year for the Town Board.

Read more stories about Mr. Wooten

He also spent $11,762.52 from January through June, including $1,841.52 paid to political adviser Jim Teese for what Mr. Wooten said were services rendered in 2011, when he was seeking the GOP supervisor nomination. Craig Vasey was paid $500 for running the golf tournament. Jack Kratoville was paid $500 by the campaign for what Mr. Wooten described as media work and promotions.

“I used [Mr. Kratoville] for the tournament, for getting the word out,” Mr. Wooten said. “‘He’s not under retainer.”

Money paid to the Riverhead golf course and caterers totaled $7,480, the records show.

The rest of the spending came mostly in the form of donations to political clubs, charities and the Riverhead Fire Department.

Mr. Wooten eventually backed down after announcing he would seek the GOP supervisor nomination against the incumbent and fellow Republican Sean Walter, who won the general election. When asked if he was stockpiling money for a possible supervisor run in 2013, he explained that the campaign activity had more to do with the date of the golf outing than a big push for the town’s top job.

But, he added, “I like to always keep my options open.”

“It’s so early to even start thinking about [a supervisor run],” Mr. Wooten said. “I can tell you I enjoy what I do. I enjoy representing the people of Riverhead and I certainly want to leave my options open. Sometimes you never know what door might open for you. That’s why I run my golf outings, for my account. I keep my campaign open and alive because you never know what might present itself.”

Mr. Wooten, who was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2011, noted that he did screen for the recently vacated tax receiver position, as has been reported, but said he wasn’t sure he would accept the position even if it was offered to him.

He currently has $3,892.89 in his campaign account, after the $3,696 mistake is subtracted.

Filings from the Friends of Sean M. Walter to Elect were not immediately available online. Mr. Walter, currently in the middle of a second two-year term, said the reports were filed with the state, and that his campaign was told not all went up yet online.

His campaign just held a comedy night fundraiser Thursday at Calverton Links, he said, adding that an amended report would have to be filed once the returns from that event are figured out.

The campaign also had a small fundraiser in March, he added.

“There’s probably $2,000 or $3,ooo in the account, but we had a fundraiser Thursday so we’ll have an amended return,” he said, guessing the fundraiser grossed about $10,000 or $12,000.

“It’s tough to raise money and I don’t like to do it in an off election year, because you’re taking money from other candidates who are running,” Mr. Walter said. “We spent like $98,000 last year. We’ve shown our ability to be able to raise cash and I don’t know if anybody in a Town of Riverhead supervisor’s race ever raised that amount of money.

“And if we had to, we’d raise it again.”

He said his frequent trips to Albany, where he’s been lobbying for legislation to help jump-start development at the town’s Enterprise Park at Calverton property, also hampered fundraising efforts.

“Because you never knew when you were going to have to go up there,” he said.

Of the other members of the all-Republican Town Board, Jodi Giglio spent $3,016 and John Dunleavy spent $3,204 so far in 2012, mostly on various clubs and charitable organizations. That leaves Ms. Giglio with $6,066.53 in her account and Mr. Dunleavy with $6,221.72.

George Gabrielsen showed a $215.72 opening balance and $190 in loans, while spending $400. His closing balance was $5.72.

As for Mr. Wooten’s contributions, his top individual/partnership contributor by far, came in the form of two installments totaling $1,900 from “G & A Loesch,” who Mr. Wooten explained is an engineer at H2M, as well as the engineer’s wife. H2M is a Melville-based engineering and consulting firm that does a lot of contract work with Riverhead Town.

Mr. Wooten’s top corporate contributors include Mather Memorial surgeon Hesham M. Atwa PC ($1,000), Smithtown law firm Devitt Spellman Barret ($700) and Calverton Manor LLC ($500), developers that have sought to build on 35 acres in Calverton.

A retired town police officer, he’s also received contributions totaling $3,350 from police and labor unions, including $1,300 from the Riverhead PBA.

mwhite@timesreview.com