Campaign 2010

Jun 28, 2006

Staten Island Advance - Dem demands probe of congressman

DCCC Press

Jun 28, 2006

Staten Island Advance - Dem demands probe of congressman

Feds should investigate spending by Fossella, state chairman says

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

By TERENCE J. KIVLAN ADVANCE WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the state Democratic Party is calling for federal probes of allegations that Rep. Vito Fossella used campaign cash to take his family on vacations to ski and beach resorts in the guise of attending fund-raising events.

"The allegations against Rep. Fossella are extremely serious, and if true, would constitute a major breach of the public trust," Herman (Denny) Farrell wrote in letters sent yesterday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner.

Fossella (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn), countered by accusing Farrell, a state assemblyman from Manhattan, of hypocrisy.

He said Farrell's campaign finance reports over the past three years listed more than $13,000 in American Express bills with no disclosure on how the money was spent.

"Denny Farrell might want to spend less time examining Vito's campaign filings and more time on his own," said Craig Donner, a Fossella spokesman. "I wonder what Mr. Farrell is hiding?"

But Farrell spokesman Blake Zeff responded that, "Instead of pointing fingers at others, Mr. Fossella should be apologizing to the people of Staten Island."

Farrell suggested in the letters that Fossella may have violated the prohibition on using political contributions for personal purposes by spending over $25,000 over the last five years on trips with his family to attend an annual GOP fund-raiser at the Lodge at Vail in Colorado.

The expenditures included payments for ski lessons, lift tickets and other perks at the event, which is sponsored by the Republican members of the House Financial Affairs Committee.

As other evidence of possible wrongdoing, Farrell cited Fossella's 2002 trip on a private jet to a GOP fund-raiser at the Turnberry Isle resort in Florida, and several corporate-financed junkets, including a 2001 trip with his wife to Palm Springs for which he failed to disclose the sponsor on his annual financial disclosure form.

There also were a NASDAQ-sponsored trip to Miami in 2003, a weekend getaway to Manhattan in 2004 paid for by the New York Stock Exchange and a two-day visit to La Hague, France, three years ago.

Fossella's aides have said the failure to disclose the sponsor of the Palm Springs trip was an oversight. The congressman filed an amendment to his financial disclosure statement identifying the sponsor as the U.S. Telecom Association.

The purpose of the trip to La Hague was to tour two French nuclear plants as a part of a House Commerce Committee project to explore the increased use of nuclear power in the United States, according to the aides. Fossella is a member of the panel.

Donner said yesterday that all of Fossella's trips and campaign expenditures were "legal and proper."

FEC spokesman Ian Stirton declined to speculate on whether the commission would look into the charges against Fossella. "I can't say," explained Stirton. "The commission doesn't like me doing that.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officials here joined the assault on Fossella. "Instead of jetting off to posh resorts on someone else's dime, Vito Fossella ... should focus" on his job, said committee spokesman Bill Burton.