- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The sex scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley has hurt the values image of the Republican Party, but Mr. Foley’s big-money donations and fundraising contacts could hurt them, too — both in their presence and their absence.

Republicans have been distancing themselves from Mr. Foley, of Florida, since he resigned last week amid accusations that he sent sexually inappropriate e-mails and instant messages to teenage male current and former congressional pages. Several House members also have publicly returned money sent to them by Mr. Foley.

“She returned the money that she received from him last Friday, immediately upon learning of his resignation and the circumstances of it,” said George Rasley, campaign spokesman for Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, the House Republican Conference chairman.

Mrs. Pryce returned a $5,000 contribution made to her campaign this year, and six other Republicans have done the same. But many other donations can be tied to the disgraced congressman, who was a key fundraiser for the party and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Mr. Foley has contributed $744,250 in the past 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a congressional watchdog group that has posted Mr. Foley’s money trail on its Web site opensecrets.org.

“Individually, no one has gotten a lot of money from Mark Foley. But the NRCC has gotten a ton from him; in fact, he was their top giver … he was valuable to them,” said Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the center.

For example, Rep. Heather A. Wilson, New Mexico Republican, has received $8,000 from Mr. Foley over the past 10 years, although her campaign spokesman, Enrique Knell, said she has received none this year.

Mr. Foley gave to 113 members individually and generously to the NRCC. Most famously, he made a $100,000 contribution to the NRCC in July that the group has said it will neither return nor donate to charity.

“We are going to use it to elect Republicans,” said Carl Forti, NRCC spokesman.

For the past 11 years, Mr. Foley has represented and been the Republican gatekeeper for one of the nation’s wealthiest and most-giving areas — Palm Beach, Fla.

Resident of Palm Beach and the surrounding areas are one of the most politically active in terms of campaign contributions, $3 million this election cycle alone.

Mr. Ritsch noted that although “the contributions are legal, and it is their right to keep the money,” it is also the case that “a number of members, particularly those in close races have decided to get rid of the cash.”

He also said the money that Mr. Foley gave directly to candidates is paltry compared with the contacts he has and how much he helped other candidates raise money by setting them up with wealthy donors in his district, particularly in tough election years.

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