Category: David Feldman Show

Grimm A Threat To The Community?

After President Obama’s fifth State of The Union, GOP Congressman Michael Grimm was being asked on camera for his reaction to the president’s speech. When questions turned to ethics investigations into Grimm’s alleged campaign finance irregularities Congressman Grimm cut short the interview with NY1-TV political reporter Michael Scotto.

Thinking the camera was no longer running Grimm got into Scotto’s face, threatened to throw him over the balcony saying, “I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

Tape of the incident quickly went viral as other people came forward recounting their experiences with the 44-year-old ex Marine’s violence laced temper.  

Melanie Sloan is Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, DC. She recently filed an ethics complaint against Congressman Michael Grimm.

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David: Melanie, who is Michael Grimm?

Melanie Sloan: Michael Grimm is, I believe, in his third term now. He’s a congressman from Staten Island, and Mr. Grimm has had ethics problem after ethics problem.

David: Is Michael Grimm running for re-election?

Melanie: He is running for re-election.

David:  Is that a safe seat for him?

Melanie: It is considered a safe Republican district.

Congressman Grimm about to threaten a reporter.

Congressman Grimm about to threaten a reporter. Grimm served in the Marines and then became an FBI agent.

David: He threatened a reporter with violence right after the State of the Union. He was having a bad day. I mean, who hasn’t threatened to throw somebody over a balcony?

Melanie:  I haven’t. I don’t know if you have. It’s a pretty bad thing to do, particularly if you’re a member of Congress and you’re being asked questions by a reporter. The fact that you don’t like the questions isn’t a reason to suggest to the reporter that you’ll throw him over the bridge and break him in half.

David: We have an entire Congress threatening Iran with violence. Isn’t that what congressmen do, they threaten violence?

Melanie: I think it’s pretty different. Discussions about foreign policy are not at all the same as having a member of Congress personally threaten bodily harm to a reporter who’s asking legitimate questions.

David: By threatening a reporter with physical violence, is Congressman Grimm violating any specific House rule?

Melanie: Yes, there’s a House rule number 23 that says you may not engage in conduct that reflects discreditably upon the House. It’s intended to be a very inclusive rule that encompasses all sorts of conduct that might make Congress look bad. And clearly when a member of Congress threatens a reporter, asking legitimate questions, with bodily harm, that makes Congress on the whole look bad.

David: Michael Grimm is a rarity in the Republican Party. He’s actually served in the armed forces. He was an FBI agent. I think there are a lot of people who saw the widely circulated video and thought ‘Good. Somebody finally standing up to the media.’

Melanie: You know, the problem for Mr. Grimm is that he’s under a federal inquiry and ethics investigations already, and clearly he has a short fuse about it. But if you’re going to be a member of Congress, you have to be able to stand tough questions, and there have been some very tough questions to be asked about Michael Grimm’s conduct.

David: Your organization, CREW, has named Congressman Grimm one of the most corrupt members of Congress.

Melanie: Yes, he has been the subject of an investigation about whether or not he has raised money illegally and whether he, in return for accepting campaign contributions, offered to help people with their immigration status.

David: So let’s focus on the campaign finance irregularities.

Michael Scotto is a reporter for NY1. Grimm threatened to throw Scotto over the balcony when questions turned to Grimm's ethics problems.

Michael Scotto is a reporter for NY1. Grimm threatened to throw Scotto over the balcony when questions turned to Grimm’s ethics problems.

Melanie: During the 2010 election cycle, Representative Grimm was frequently seen with an Israeli citizen and close aide to a well-respected rabbi in New York. This Israeli citizen’s name is Ofer Biton. And Mr. Grimm and Mr. Biton travelled around the New York region together. Mr. Biton helped Grimm raise money from this rabbi’s followers.

And New York Times’ analysis of the campaign contributions found that Representative Grimm raised more than $500,000 from members of the rabbi’s congregation, which was more than half the money Grimm received during that election cycle. The Times also found that the vast majority of those who donated to Representative Grimm had never given to a federal candidate before at all and lived outside of Representative Grimm’s congressional district.

And several of the rabbi’s followers who spoke anonymously to reporters said Representative Grimm had told donors there were ways to evade campaign finance laws. And one person said that Grimm had requested a $20,000 contribution and set a meeting near the FBI building in lower Manhattan, where the follower then met Grimm and gave him a cash-filled envelope with $5,000. And a week later, the same person gave Grimm another $5,000.

David:  And you’re allowed to give how much cash each election cycle?

Melanie: Well, it varies. Each election cycle, it goes up slightly. You know, I think last cycle it was $2,500 to a primary and $2,500 for the general. So if you were giving a cash-filled envelope with $5,000 for the general election, you would have gone above the campaign finance limit.

David: What are Grimm’s other campaign finance irregularities that CREW is concerned about?

Melanie Sloan is the executive director of CREW and filed the ethics complaint against Congressman Grimm.

Melanie Sloan is the executive director of CREW and filed the ethics complaint against Congressman Grimm.

Melanie: There’s an ongoing federal inquiry into whether Representative Grimm was getting straw donations.

David: What are straw donations?

Melanie: Straw donations are donations made by one person in the name of another. So it’s a way to cover up who’s really making the donation. It’s a conduit contribution. If you’re a candidate, and I made a contribution to you, but really somebody else was giving me the money to give to you, then that would be a “straw donation.”

David: What other ethics problems does Congressman Grimm face?

Melanie: He’s had a series of other minor ethics problems as well. He used his position to help the security firm of a friend. He made a video ad for that friend, and members of Congress are not allowed to use their status to endorse any commercial enterprises. The guy just is really lacking an ethical compass.

David: Can anybody file an ethics complaint against a U.S. congressman?

Melanie: Anybody can file an ethics complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics. This was an office that was established in 2006 in the wake of many, many ethics scandal in the House because the House Ethics Committee does not accept ethics complaints from outsiders, only from members of Congress.

So this Office of Congressional Ethics is the place where anybody can file a complaint, and they do a preliminary investigation, and if they’d find that there’s probable cause to believe an ethics violation may have occurred, then the complaint gets forwarded to the Ethics Committee.

David: Is that process bipartisan?

Melanie: The Office of Congressional Ethics and the House Ethics Committee are both evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The Ethics Committee is the only committee in the House that has a completely even split.

David: When was CREW founded?

Melanie: I founded CREW back in 2003, and if your listeners would like to learn more about CREW, they can go to our website, www.citizensforethics.org.

David: Thank you for your time.

Melanie: Thanks for having me.

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Does FDA Work For You? Or Big Pharma?

The Center for Disease Control issued a report late last year warning that, conservatively speaking, more than 2 million Americans are sickened and 23,000 are killed each year by antibiotic-resistant infections. 

The CDC  warns half of all antibiotic prescriptions for humans are unnecessary.

The CDC warns half of all antibiotic prescriptions for humans are unnecessary.

Meanwhile, 80% of all antibiotics used in America are placed in animal feed.

Now comes word the Food and Drug Administration conducted a ten-year study of 30 animal feed antibiotics, and concluded that 18 of them posed a high risk for developing antibacterial-resistant superbugs, which can make their way into humans.

The FDA withheld this study. But through the Freedom of Information Act, the Natural Resources Defense Council got its hands on the study and is making it public this week.

Avinash Kar is one of the attorneys with the Natural Resources Defense Council who sued for the release of this study. He joins us from Washington, D.C.

Listen to original broadcast

David:  How can the FDA possibly defend this behavior?

Avinash: FDA is likely to point to its recent guidance, its policy recommendations that it put out late last year, which are voluntary and ask for drug manufacturers to give up some of the uses of antibiotics to animals that are not sick. We think that’s inadequate. It’ll simply allow many current uses to continue under a different name. And, of course, it is still voluntary.

Margaret A. Hamburg became the 21st commissioner of food and drugs on May 18, 2009.

Margaret A. Hamburg became the 21st commissioner of food and drugs on May 18, 2009.

David: What was in this study, Avinash? What was the FDA not telling the American people?

Avinash: FDA reviewed the safety of 30 different penicillin and tetracycline antibiotics added to animal feed over the course of the last decade. It concluded that almost none of these antibiotics meet the safety standards that FDA established in 1973. FDA also compared these antibiotics against the most recent policy standard for looking at the safety of antibiotics in feed, and concluded they would not be approvable today under those standards if they were to come up.

Having made these conclusions, FDA should have acted on them, and should have stopped the use of these antibiotics in animal feed. Instead, it’s put out mere recommendations that don’t go far enough.

David:  This study involves two of my favorite people, Big Ag and the pharmaceutical industry. So, Big Ag and the pharmaceutical industry are working hand in hand to encourage farmers to give our livestock penicillin. Why are they giving our livestock penicillin?

Avinash: Antibiotics are used in animal feed, whether it’s cattle, swine, or poultry, for a couple of reasons when they’re used on animals that are not sick. The first is to speed up animal growth. The second is to compensate for the crowded and often unsanitary conditions that often exist in facilities.

So it’s to speed up animal growth artificially, and to compensate for the conditions and none of the animals are sick. We’re not opposed to the use of antibiotics on animals that are sick, but this is basically the equivalent of adding antibiotics to the cereal of children day after day because they might get sick in daycare. It’s not an appropriate use.

David:  Instead of housing the animals properly, and treating them properly, they’re looking for a quick fix, which is just throw some antibiotics into the feed. The FDA did not release this study. Why not?

The NRDC sued through the Freedom Of Information Act to make FDA's study public.

The NRDC sued through the Freedom Of Information Act to make FDA’s study public.

Avinash: I’m not sure why they didn’t release this study, because it calls for action on their part. It shows that these antibiotics are not being used in a way that is protective of human health. FDA has consistently given in to the livestock and pharmaceutical industries on this issue, and this continues their pattern of inaction on this issue, and their failure to really engage meaningfully on it.

David:  Who does the Food and Drug Administration work for, the American people, or Big Ag and Big Pharma?

Avinash: Well, they’re supposed to be working for us, and they’re supposed to be protecting public health. Unfortunately, their actions don’t often move towards protecting public health. They seem to be protecting industry.

David:  Are lobbyists allowed to lobby the FDA?

Avinash: Yes, they are. For instance, when FDA put out its voluntary recommendations late last year, the Animal Health Institute, which is the animal pharmaceutical industry association, had advanced word of the announcement, which none of us knew about until we heard about it through their press release.

David: Is there something American farmers could be doing to raise our animals without antibiotics?

Avinash: We think there’s a really good example in the experience in Denmark. Denmark produces about 30 million hogs a year in an industrial system of production. It’s about the same number of hogs as Iowa produces in a year. They have managed to reduce their use of antibiotics by over 40% since they stopped the use of antibiotics in animals that are not sick.

They’ve done it through measures that are not exactly rocket science. They are doing better sanitation. They’re providing a little bit more space for animals. We’re not talking about pasture-raised animals here. We’re talking still about an industrial system of production. They’re weaning the animals a little bit later, and they’re taking other such good management measures that are helping them produce even more pigs than they were before, without the use of antibiotics.

David: That’s Denmark?

Avinash: Yes.

David: There’s something rotten in America. Avinash Kar is with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Avinash: Thank you very much, David.

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David Feldman Show: Marty Short on Mayor Rob Ford

MARTIN SHORT

Martin Short on Mayor Rob Ford. Plus: David Wild from Rolling Stone magazine remembers Pete Seeger.

CREW, the Center for Responsibility And Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint against Congressman Michael Grimm, in response to Grimm’s threat Tuesday night to break a reporter in half and throw him off a balcony. Melanie Sloan filed that ethics complaint. She is the executive director of CREW and tells us why Congressman Michael Grimm is one of the most corrupt politicians in Washington DC.

Some disturbing news about our food. This week we learned that the Food and Drug Administration withheld an internal study that concluded feeding antibiotics to livestock makes humans susceptible to antibiotic resistant Superbugs. We’ll talk with Avinash Kar from the Natural Resources Defense Council who sued the FDA to get this study made public.

Sargent Shriver’s son, Maria Shriver’s brother Bobby Shriver is running for office here in Los Angeles calling himself an environmentalist. But Hunter Schwarz from Buzzfeed has been looking into Bobby Shriver’s investments and says Bobby Shriver’s stock portfolio is drill baby drill.

Also Will Ryan & The Cactus County Cowboys featuring Westy Westenhofer, Cactus Chloe Fiorenzo, Benny Brydern and JT Tornado Thomas.

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