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Legal Fees Eat Into Campaign Coffers

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Payments from the re-election account of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (center) to the law firm Steptoe & Johnson during the third quarter totaled $34,940.

The campaign to re-elect Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. rose precipitously in the months leading up to the Ethics Committee’s announcement in mid-October that it would resume its probe into whether the Illinois Democrat offered to raise money for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in exchange for the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Payments from Jackson’s re-election account to the law firm Steptoe & Johnson during the third quarter totaled $34,940, up from $10,734 during the previous filing period and none during the first quarter of the year. The committee’s investigation of Jackson’s role in the scandal was on hold while the Justice Department built its case against Blagojevich, who was convicted in June on 17 of 20 corruption charges.

The cost of lawsuits and ethics inquiries can extend past when the investigation concludes — and even after a lawmaker leaves Congress.

Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) was the subject of an Ethics Committee investigation last year related to a mortgage transaction that allowed her to repurchase her home after it went into foreclosure. Committee investigators also interviewed members of her staff regarding allegations that she had required her Hill employees to volunteer for her campaign.

Though the committee eventually cleared Richardson of wrongdoing in the mortgage matter and the California Democrat has said the inquiry into the staff allegations never developed into a formal investigation, legal debts continue to plague the Richardson for Congress campaign.

The campaign reported it owed $460,011 and had $116,706 in cash on hand at the end of September. More than $125,000 of the debts listed are to law firms.

Richardson’s office declined to comment on the campaign’s legal debt.

Former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) resigned in March 2010, but his campaign account continues to pay legal fees that are likely associated with the Ethics Committee’s recent decision to reauthorize an investigative subcommittee to look into whether the ex-lawmaker sexually harassed a male staff member.

The Massa for Congress account has paid $65,730 to lawyers since the beginning of the year — its only significant expense other than nominal phone bills, payroll processing and the salary of campaign treasurer Beverly Massa, the former lawmaker’s wife.

The campaign account of fellow New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, who resigned his House seat in June following a sexting scandal, also showed sizable legal expenditures.

During the third quarter, Friends of Weiner paid $29,832 to T&M Protection Resources, a firm that provides “seamlessly integrated security and investigative services, including state-of-the-art security technologies, to leading corporations, organizations and private clients,” according to its website. That followed a $75,056 payment to the law firm Baker  Hostetler and nearly $25,000 paid to attorneys at Perkins Coie at the end of June.

Clarification: Nov. 2, 2011

An earlier version of the article misstated the employment status of a plaintiff in a case against the campaign of Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.). The plaintiff did canvassing work in support of Holt’s campaign but was paid by another candidate’s committee and an outside group.

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