FEC Adds Fine to Hastert's Legal Bills in Mark Foley Case

Sen. Charles Schumer, a self-described "homebody," dined with troops in Baghdad on Monday, his second trip overseas while in Congress.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a self-described "homebody," dined with troops in Baghdad on Monday, his second trip overseas while in Congress. (Associated Press)
By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, January 3, 2008

As if the House page scandal involving former representative Mark Foley (R-Fla.) hadn't done enough damage to Republicans, now we discover that legal bills arising from it landed former speaker J. Dennis Hastert's campaign committee in hot water with the Federal Election Commission.

According to FEC documents, Hastert (R-Ill.) failed to disclose in early January 2007 that his 2006 reelection campaign had run up $147,000 in legal bills stemming from his connection with the Foley investigation. Hastert agreed to settle the matter and pay a $1,000 penalty.

One of Hastert's campaign lawyers signed the agreement Aug. 20, three days after he publicly announced he would not run for office again, and it was filed with the FEC in September. Hastert officially resigned Nov. 26.

The FEC allows lawmakers under investigation for matters of official conduct to pay attorneys with campaign funds. But they must disclose the payments and any outstanding debt in filings with the FEC.

The House ethics committee found that Hastert and his senior aides did not properly respond to warnings before the Foley scandal that the Florida lawmaker was sending explicit Internet messages to former House pages, all of them teenage males.

Through the first half of 2007, Hastert raised more than $540,000 in campaign funds. More than $130,000 of that went toward paying off old legal bills, FEC records show. On Sept. 30, the end of the most recent reporting period, Hastert had $1,557.86 in his campaign account but more than $52,000 in outstanding debts. That includes the last $11,000 owed to his law firm, McKenna, Long & Aldridge, which represented Hastert during the Foley probe.

Stefan C. Passantino, Hastert's lawyer, said Hastert had decided to retire before reaching the settlement with the FEC. "It was clearly in his interest to accept the consent order that was offered to us, rather than to fight," he said.

Specter, Kennedy Back From Pakistan

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) are back on American soil after a trip to Pakistan that evoked eerie memories for both when former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was slain as the lawmakers were departing their hotel to meet her for dinner.

Kennedy says he's still in shock over Bhutto's assassination. He and Specter were in Rawalpindi earlier in the day and were scheduled to have dinner with Bhutto, after first stopping by a reception at the home of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

That day, before Bhutto was killed, Kennedy found himself chatting with Pakistanis about the 1963 assassination of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy. The subject came up when the congressman handed out Kennedy half dollars as gifts to thank various officials for their "good will."

"When I did, they'd tell me where they were the day my uncle was killed. People halfway around the world, speaking through interpreters, remembering where they were," Kennedy told us yesterday. "It's highly ironic, because on that day I'll never forget where I was when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated."

Specter, who served on the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy, is calling on the United Nations to appoint a commission to investigate the Pakistani opposition leader's death.

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