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Candidates give away Foley contributions

Sen. George Allen and Rep. Heather Wilson, two Republicans in tight re-election contests, plan to donate to charities the contributions they received from Mark Foley, the former congressman ensnared in an e-mail sex scandal.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Republicans in tight re-election contests were unloading contributions they received over the years from Mark Foley, the former congressman ensnared in an e-mail sex scandal.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has received $550,000 from Foley since 1996, will keep its money, committee spokesman Carl Forti said.

“We will be using the money like every other contribution — to help elect Republicans across the country,” Forti said.

In Buffalo, N.Y., the Republican chairman of the committee, Tom Reynolds, dismissed the notion that the committee give up or donate the $100,000 it received from Foley last summer. He spoke at a news conference in which he also defended himself against suggestions that he didn’t act appropriately when he learned of Foley’s contact with a Louisiana teenager.

“It’s astounding to me as a parent or a grandparent that anyone would insinuate that I would seek to cover up inappropriate conduct between an adult and a child,” Reynolds said, flanked by about 30 children and as many parents.

Among Republicans disposing of Foley money were Virginia Sen. George Allen, who plans to give the $2,000 his campaign received to a charitable cause, and Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico, who plans to give away $8,000 she received between 1998 and 2002. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., already donated $2,000 to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., returned $1,000 she had received from Foley’s political action committee.

Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, a member of the Republican leadership, returned $5,000 to Foley’s leadership PAC on Friday. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., returned a $1,000 contribution as well. Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., and Geoff Davis, R-Ky., donated the $1,000 they each received from Foley’s PAC to victims’ advocacy organizations in their respective districts.

Rep. Mark Green, a candidate for governor in Wisconsin, planned to give $1,000 he received in 1998 from the Foley PAC to a charity that helps abused children, his spokesman said Monday night. The state Democratic Party had called on Green to return the money.

Foley was a member of the House Republican leadership where he served as a deputy whip. Like most leaders, Foley not only kept his own campaign fund, he also maintained a leadership PAC and donated to candidates and to the party’s congressional committee. Since he was elected in 1994, Foley has contributed $30,000 to congressional candidates from his own campaign funds. Since 1998, his PAC has distributed $149,000 to political candidates, according to Political Money Line, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political money.

His contributions to the NRCC were his single largest political donations. His most recent contribution to the party committee was in July for $100,000, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Such a sum is not an unusual donation for members of the party’s top echelon to the committee responsible with helping to elect GOP House candidates.

The congressional campaign committee is chaired by Reynolds, R-N.Y., one of the first members of the GOP leadership notified about the existence of some questionable e-mails from Foley last year. Reynolds has said he promptly and personally notified House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Returning money from scandal plagued politicians has become common practice this election cycle amid a series of guilty pleas, investigations and confessions of wrongdoing by lobbyists and members of Congress.

Among those whose contributions have found their way to charities are former House Republican leader Tom DeLay, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., and Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.