By Nathan Duke
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) easily defeated his Democratic challenger in last week’s primary and will now face Republican James Milano, a Long Island doctor who has called for the longtime congressman to be investigated.
Ackerman, first elected in 1982, handily beat Long Island’s Patricia Maher in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, while Milano bested attorney Elizabeth Berney.
On Monday, Milano’s campaign sent out a press release that called for a House Ethics Committee for Ackerman.
Earlier this year, the congressman defended himself against published reports that he allegedly profited from his relationship with a defense-contracting firm by setting up a meeting between the company and Israeli officials.
“It is inexplicable that the House Ethics Committee has not begun to look into this matter of possible fraud and serious violations of the election law,” said Anthony Carollo, Milano’s campaign spokesman, in a statement. “The House has moved fairly quickly in matters of relating to Congress members [Charles] Rangel and [Maxine] Waters.”
In a statement, Ackerman shot back at Milano.
“My desperate opponent has nothing but extremist views and nothing to say of any appeal to the voters, so therefore he is dredging up an old story that has already appeared, that misrepresented the facts and has no merit,” he said.
In January, the congressman blasted a Daily News story which reported that he allegedly borrowed $14,000 in 2002 from the top shareholder at Xenonics Inc., a defense-contracting firm, and put no money down. The paper reported that the loan had no written payback date.
He is also alleged to have set up a meeting between the firm’s founder and Israeli officials.
Ackerman said he had arranged a meeting eight years ago between the company and representatives of Israel because he believed the firm’s technology for night vision lighting “could contribute to Israel’s national defense.”
He said his interests with Xenonics had been properly disclosed and that he had not promoted the firm. The loan was paid off “with proper interest” as of Dec. 12, 2004, he said.
A July 18 story in the Daily News reported that Ackerman allegedly paid nearly $100,000 in campaign funds to a Washington, D.C. firm to figure out the timing involved in the meeting he set up between Israeli officials and the defense contractor.
“While the campaign finance laws do give some latitude on what constitutes a legitimate campaign expenditure, it is clear that paying attorneys for a case having nothing to do with the campaign, and instead are paying for possible violations of federal law and House ethics rules, at the very least deserves an investigation,” Carollo said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.