Maybe they think it's got cooties

Remember Mark Foley? The guy who once left the House floor during a vote in order to rub one out while texting with a House page? The guy who gift-wrapped Florida's 16th district and handed it over to Democrat Tim Mahoney? He's back in the news, but not for anything salacious.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned from Congress amid an Internet teen sex scandal, has racked up nearly a half-million dollars in legal fees paid from his campaign account, according to recent filings.

Foley spent $277,367 on legal fees from February to April, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

That's on top of the $206,000 in campaign cash Foley spent on attorneys from last November to January.

Foley's filing indicated that he still has about $1.4 million in campaign cash as of July 15.

The FEC has ruled that such expenditures for legal fees that arise from congressional duties are generally lawful, but Foley must still return money to donors who request refunds.

Half a million in legal fees, and he still has nearly three times that left in his account. I have a bit of a problem with that--I have a problem with the way elections are financed in this country all the way around, mind you, but this goes way beyond that. There's something unseemly about using campaign cash to help get yourself out of trouble, whether it's for potentially illegal communications of a sexual nature with a minor, or for money laundering a la Tom DeLay, or for any other legal quandary a Congresscritter might find him or herself in. Campaign money ought to be limited to campaigning, period--not personal, private legal fees--and once a person is no longer a campaigner, campaign money ought to be returned. It's not like these contributions are tax deductible or anything.

Now, it's true that Foley has to return any money that his former donors want returned, but I can't imagine they were ringing him up right after the scandal broke. Most of them probably figured it was worth whatever they'd given just to not have to talk to the guy again. But it's stuff like this that hardens my position that we need to move to public financing of elections. Then you don't have the question of leftover money being used to finance a person's legal defense--you'd either have to pay out of pocket or get your buddies to fill up a defense fund for you, and I suspect Foley would have had a bit more of a problem doing that than Scooter Libby did.

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