Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), who has come under scrutiny by the Justice Department and House ethics committee for his role in the Congressional page scandal that brought down former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), has asked the Federal Election Commission for permission to use campaign funds to pay for any legal bills related to the case.
This comes as both Democratic and GOP leaders privately prepare for the release of a report by the ethics committee on its Foley investigation, possibly as early as this week.
Kolbe has retained Reginald Brown of the law firm WilmerHale to represent him in the DOJ and ethics committee investigations. Brown is a former associate White House counsel with strong ties to senior Bush administration officials.
Kolbe’s campaign made the request to the FEC in late October, but the commission has not yet ruled on the issue.
It was unclear when Kolbe retained Brown or how much the retiring Arizona Republican has spent on legal fees in response to the parallel investigations. Kolbe’s campaign has more than $145,000 in cash on hand, according to his most recent campaign finance report, which was submitted in mid-October. Brown declined to comment for this article.
Members are routinely allowed to use campaign funds to cover legal fees resulting from any criminal or ethics investigations, although the underlying issue that spurred the investigation must be related to a lawmaker’s official duties.
“The Congressman is required to submit the letters before he can use any of his campaign funds,” Korenna Cline, a Kolbe spokeswoman, said of the FEC request. “Appropriately, he is seeking an advisory opinion from the FEC on whether he can pay legal fees and expenses associated with any official inquiries during his tenure as a Member of the House.”
After the allegations that Foley had improper contacts with former House pages first broke in early October, Kolbe acknowledged that a former page complained to him several years before about inappropriate e-mails from Foley. Kolbe said he told Foley’s then-chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, and Jeff Trandahl, the House Clerk at the time, about the
e-mails but took no other action. Kolbe has insisted that he was not aware of any sexually explicit e-mails sent by Foley.
It also was revealed that Kolbe took a three-day camping trip in July 1996 with several male pages. Kolbe’s sister and several employees of the National Park Service were on the trip, as well, and denied that any improper behavior occurred during the excursion. Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican currently serving in the House, and he is retiring this year after 11 terms.
While media reports suggested that the 1996 trip was privately funded, Kolbe’s campaign treasurer, William Kelley, told the FEC in a Nov. 27 letter that the trip actually was paid for by the National Park Service and a unit of the Grand Canyon National Park.
“Congressman Kolbe and others took the trip under the auspices of his office in light of his oversight role as a member of the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee,” Kelley said. “Public funds were expended in connection with the trip, although it appears some incidental expenses were paid for privately.”
Kolbe repeatedly has denied any improper conduct in his dealings with former House pages or his response to the Foley e-mails, and sources familiar with the Justice Department investigation suggest the Kolbe portion of the probe may be closed soon.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.