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FBI not investigating Republican skinny-dipping, drinking in Israel

August 20, 2012|By Richard A. Serrano and Kim Geiger | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who attended a raucous GOP trip to Israel, is being informally looked at by the FBI over campaign contributions.
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who attended a raucous GOP trip to Israel,… (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- FBI officials said they are not investigating any criminal wrongdoing in a late-night swim last summer in Israel involving drinking and several Republican congressmen, including one who skinny-dipped in the Sea of Galilee and has since apologized.

The incident, which occurred during a fact-finding congressional trip for mostly freshmen GOP lawmakers and was paid for by the American Israel Educational Foundation, occurred during a night of revelry  that eventually led to a late-night dip by congressmen and some of their aides.

Separately, FBI agents are inquiring about allegations of illegal campaign contributions to Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who was on the trip. While agents have spoken to some staff aides and others, no formal investigation  has been opened into Grimm.  Ofer Biton, an Israeli who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Grimm in 2010, has been charged in Brooklyn, N.Y., on immigration fraud charges.

Grimm was one of six congressmen who reportedly took part in the swim. The others were Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater) and Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), who disrobed before he entered the lake.

Politico, an online political news site, reported Sunday night that the FBI had “probed” the incident. Citing “multiple sources,” the website said that the FBI had questioned congressional staff about “who went into the water that night, and whether there was any impropriety.”

In total, more than 20 people swam in the lake -- a holy site where Jesus is said to have walked on water -- in what was described as an alcohol-fueled party that capped off a “long, hot day.”

News of the event has added yet another tale of immodesty to a Congress that has seen its share of embarrassing improprieties.  Since the start of the 112th Congress, two congressmen -- Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, and Christopher Lee, a New York Republican -- have stepped down after being caught sending suggestive pictures to women over the Internet. Former Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) resigned after reports of an “unwanted” sexual encounter, and former Sen. John Ensign stepped down after trying to cover up an extramarital affair with the wife of an aide.

The late-night dip reportedly sparked a harsh rebuke from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who was on the trip but was not present when the swim took place.

Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Cantor “handled the situation swiftly and appropriately.”

Yoder, the congressman who took his swim in the nude, said in a statement to Politico that for “any embarrassment I have caused my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”

[For the Record, 11:10 p.m. PST  Aug. 20: An earlier version of this post said Rep. Kevin Yoder was a representative from New York. Yoder represents Kansas.]

kim.geiger@latimes.com

richard.serrano@latimes.com

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