Hard times in NY-11

Here’s some news which is probably coming as no surprise to any politico watchers in New York, but will have Democrats looking for a ray of hope in an otherwise dismal campaign cycle. Reports from insiders – now confirmed by the Congressman’s office – indicate that Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY11) will be indicted next week on a variety of charges related to campaign finance irregularities.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) has been secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, according to people familiar with the case. The indictment is expected to be unsealed in the coming days.

A person briefed on the case said Grimm was indicted by a grand jury empaneled by the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn and that his attorney had been in talks with prosecutors. Grimm’s attorney, William McGinley, confirmed in a phone call Friday that he had been informed of the pending indictment.

He declined to comment beyond a separate written statement that said: “We are disappointed by the government’s decision, but hardly surprised. From the beginning, the government has pursued a politically driven vendetta against Congressman Grimm and not an independent search for the truth. Congressman Grimm asserts his innocence of any wrongdoing.”

McGinley added that “when the dust settles” Grimm “will be vindicated.” Until then, Grimm plans to continue serving in Congress, McGinley said.

Talks about these allegations began roughly five minutes after Grimm originally located the rest rooms and his parking spot in Washington following his initial 2010 victory. The local press has had a field day with the various charges and arrests – including Grimm’s former girlfriend – which have swirled around him, without ever seeming to come to a level of directly connecting him. But it would appear that the Feds now feel they’ve got the goods and are ready to move forward.

Maybe it’s coincidence (insert your own joke here) but the timing of this news couldn’t be better for the Democrats. The filing deadline for the race in the 11th has already passed. Should this develop into a situation where Grimm either had to step down or was so exposed and injured that he couldn’t possibly prevail, the GOP might still be forced to either run him anyway or allow the Democrats to run for the seat unopposed. It’s not unheard of that, upon appropriate petition, a court could step in and allow the Republican party leaders from the area to put up another candidate, but that’s not a sure thing.

The 11th, encompassing Staten Island and a bit of the South end of Brooklyn, is a real melting pot which I visit periodically. There are a large number of neighborhoods which break down sharply along ethnic lines. (The current district is new as of the last census. Most of this area was previously the 13th.) It’s the only “safe” GOP seat in all of New York City proper, and the Democrats would dearly love to knock Grimm off. And if this plays out anywhere near as poorly as it looks, they just might get their chance, as Doug Mataconis explains.

Assuming the rumors are true, Grimm is, of course, innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Politically speaking, though, there are few things worse than a pending Federal indictment in an election year. Even if Grimm survives the legal claims, he may not survive politically.

There’s no telling how solid the case against Grimm is, and there is certainly motive aplenty for there to be some political push behind this. But at the same time, there’s been so much smoke swirling around this story for two years that the prosecutors must feel that they’ve finally found some fire under it.