It’s not easy writing about U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Squawk and Guffaw of the Hustings, since it is difficult to type while sighing, rolling one’s eyes and pausing occasionally to chortle.
But we’ll press on.
As you may know, the U.S. House’s answer to Gordon Gekko wants a promotion to the U.S. Senate, which feels like Ted Nugent aspiring to become ambassador to the Vatican. At the moment, Grayson is locked in a tight battle in the Democratic primary with Rep. Patrick Murphy, who was a Republican about 20 minutes ago.
The fact the race is so close might suggest Florida Democrats are suckers for a good car wreck.
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But Murphy isn’t Grayson’s only problem on the road to the Senate.
During a meeting of the Congressional Progressive Caucus recently, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid bluntly told Grayson, “I want you to lose. It’s true.”
Too abstruse? Actually, Reid was dialing back his general loathing toward Grayson.
The Nevada senator said in February he regarded Grayson’s somewhat suspect activities in office as not only “ disgraceful to the Democratic Party, they disgrace the halls of Congress.” So an endorsement is unlikely.
Earlier this year, Grayson became the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation in the wake of a New York Times expose that suggested he had used his perch on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to enhance his management of a $16.4 million hedge fund, which was based at the time in the Cayman Islands, a much-beloved tax haven.
The paper reported that Grayson told potential investors they should contribute money to the fund to seize upon the fiscal rewards of “blood in the streets.” A marketing document produced by Grayson urged investors to “capitalize on markets in turmoil due to economic, political or natural disasters.”
How could a potential investor not conclude the hedge fund might benefit from insider information gleaned from Grayson’s seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee? It didn’t help that Grayson was accused of using congressional aides to also do work for the fund. Not very bright.
It is true the investigation of Grayson was prompted by an ethics complaint filed by a supporter of Murphy, which Graysondismissed as politically motivated. Then again, if you’re running for office and your opponent is exposed by the New York Times for being a scruples-challenged lug who is muddling his public and private lives, don’t you suspect it would be a failure of political due diligence not to pursue an ethics complaint?
While the Murphy camp had plenty of political motivation to accuse its opponent of war profiteering that still didn’t mean where’s there’s smoke, there’s Alan Grayson. Last month, the Ethics Committee said in a 74-page report that there was “substantial reason to believe” Grayson had indeed violated federal law and broken House rules associated with his investments.
Let’s face it, in the midst of a close race, for the Murphy campaign to manage to hang the words “hedge fund,” “Cayman Islands” and “tax haven” around Grayson’s neck would seem to be the opposition research dream trifecta.
For his part, Grayson has insisted he is a veritable virtuous Diogenes of Orlando, fending off the likes of new Democrat Murphy and now even the grumpy Senate minority leader who, by the way, also called the congressman an “embarrassment.”
By all accounts, Grayson is a pretty smart guy. He is a multimillionaire Harvard-educated lawyer who worked his way through school as a janitor. He should have been savvy enough to understand his investments, and the disclosures he was skipping back and forth between his taxpayer-funded job and the financial world, would create, at the very least, the perception of impropriety.
Grayson can proclaim his Bambi-esque innocence all he wants. When the House Ethics Committee takes 74 pages to say there is “substantial reason to believe” a member of Congress has broken federal law, it’s not exactly fodder for a winning yard sign.
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