A HISTORY OF POLITICAL SEX SCANDALS:
"Ex-congressman charged in terror probe: US officials say he was part of fund-raising ring"
By Richard B. Schmitt, Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2008
WASHINGTON - A former Republican member of Congress from Michigan was indicted yesterday in connection with his work for a US-based Islamic relief organization that allegedly supported a prominent Afghan warlord.
Mark Deli Siljander, 56, a Washington lobbyist who served in the House between 1981 and 1987, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice in a multicount indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo.
Federal officials said Siljander was hired in 2004 by the Islamic American Relief Agency, of Columbia, Mo., after the group had been included on a list of organizations banned from receiving government contracts because of concern that they supported international terrorism.
Siljander was paid $50,000 to lobby Congress to restore the firm's eligibility to receive government work. According to the indictment, the money was stolen by the Islamic American Relief Agency from the US Agency for International Development, which had hired the organization to do relief work in Africa.
Siljander was charged with conspiring to engage in money laundering by transferring stolen USAID funds and obstructing justice by lying to a federal grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents, officials said.
Siljander allegedly told federal agents that he had not been hired to do any lobbying or advocacy work for the relief agency, and that the funds he received were charitable donations intended to assist him in writing a book about Islam and Christianity.
James R. Hobbs, Siljander's lawyer, said his client was innocent.
"Mark Siljander vehemently denies the allegations in the indictment and will enter a not-guilty plea," according to a statement from Hobbs. "Mr. Siljander, a former congressman, is internationally recognized for his good-faith attempts to bridge the gap between Christian and Muslim communities worldwide."
Hobbs said that Siljander was never an officer of the relief agency nor was he involved in efforts to engage in prohibited financial transactions with terrorists. Many of the charges in the 42-count indictment target the IARA and several of its former officers.
The group was shuttered in October 2004 when it was designated a terrorist organization by the Treasury Department. In an earlier indictment, filed last March, it was charged with transferring funds to Iraq in violation of federal law.
Also named was the group's former executive director, Mubarak Hamed, a naturalized US citizen from Sudan.
The new, expanded indictment alleges that the group funneled some $130,000 to bank accounts in Pakistan "purportedly for an orphanage" that was housed in buildings controlled by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Hekmatyar is founder of the Hezb-e-Islami, a militia that is allied with the Taliban. The US government put Hekmatyar on a list of global terrorists in 2003, making it illegal to support him or his interests.
Siljander entered Congress in 1981, declaring war on pornography, abortion, school busing, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
Most of the charges allege Representative Rick Renzi, 49, used his office to promote a land swap to collect on a debt. A 35-count federal indictment.
"Arizona congressman charged with extortion: GOP leaders ask him to step down"
By Paul Davenport, Associated Press, (The Boston Globe), February 23, 2008
PHOENIX - Federal authorities announced corruption charges yesterday accusing Representative Rick Renzi of engineering a swap of federally owned mining land to benefit himself and a former business partner and stealing from his insurance company's clients.
A lengthy federal investigation that had put the three-term Republican congressman under a cloud for more than a year culminated in a 26-page indictment issued Thursday against him and two other men. Renzi announced Aug. 23 that he wouldn't run for reelection in Arizona's mostly rural First Congressional District.
"Congressman Renzi deprived the citizens of Arizona of his honest services as a United States elected representative," US Attorney Diane J. Humetewa said.
The indictment's 35 counts include charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, insurance fraud, and extortion. Most of the charges allege Renzi, 49, used his office to promote a land swap to collect on a debt owed by James W. Sandlin of Sherman, Texas, a former Renzi associate.
Renzi, Sandlin, and Andrew Beardall of Rockville, Md., another of the congressman's former business associates, were to be arraigned in Tucson on March 6. Convictions on the most serious charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison.
Renzi has denied wrongdoing, and his lawyer, Kelly Kramer, issued a brief statement saying the representative would "fight these charges until he is vindicated and his family's name is restored."
GOP leadership, however, immediately pressured Renzi to step down.
House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio called the charges "completely unacceptable for a member of Congress" and said Renzi should "seriously consider whether he can continue to effectively represent his constituents under these circumstances."
Renzi is one of 24 cochairmen for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign in Arizona. McCain seemed surprised when asked about the indictment at a campaign stop in Indianapolis, choosing his words carefully, shaking his head, and speaking slowly.
"I'm sorry. I feel for the family; as you know, he has 12 children," McCain said. "But I don't know enough of the details to make a judgment. These kinds of things are always very unfortunate. . . . I rely on our Department of Justice and system of justice to make the right outcome."
Renzi had been considered in political peril ever since FBI agents raided his wife's insurance business in the southern Arizona town of Sonoita in October 2006. He immediately stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee, and followed that by taking a leave of absence from the House Financial Services and Natural Services committees.
Authorities accuse Renzi of using his position as a member of the Natural Resources Committee to push land deals for Sandlin. Renzi wanted Sandlin to make money so the congressman could be paid for an earlier land deal they made together, the indictment said.
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington applauded the Justice Department for holding Renzi "accountable given that his House colleagues refused to do so."
"Ariz. congressman pleads not guilty in fraud case: Charges include embezzlement"
By Arthur H. Rotstein, Associated Press, March 5, 2008
TUCSON - Representative Richard Renzi pleaded not guilty yesterday to all charges in a federal indictment accusing him of abusing his office for financial gain and of raising campaign funds by embezzling insurance premiums collected by his family's firm.
Renzi, an Arizona Republican, was arraigned on charges including wire fraud, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, extortion, and money laundering. The 35-count indictment was issued Feb. 21.
US Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco ordered Renzi released on his promise to appear. He was fingerprinted and photographed by federal authorities and released.
Renzi, who said last year that he would not be seeking a fourth term, spoke with reporters after his court appearance. "I have a lot of faith in my attorneys," Renzi said. "I'll be OK."
Renzi, 49, is accused of embezzling $400,000 from his family-owned insurance agency to help pay for his first campaign and of using his office to promote a land deal that would financially benefit himself and a former business associate. The most serious counts against him carry maximum prison sentences of 20 years.
Defense lawyer Reid Weingarten cautioned against a rush to judgment and said Renzi will stay in office. Trial is set for April 29, and Weingarten said the defense was "not going to drag our feet."
Renzi has felt pressure to resign from House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, among others.
Authorities contend that Renzi and Andrew Beardall, a business associate, misled customers and state insurance regulators while embezzling premiums from the trust account of the Patriot Insurance Agency Inc. The agency, run by Renzi's wife, was raided by the FBI last April. Also, Renzi and former business partner James Sandlin are accused of extortion in a case involving rights to an Arizona copper deposit.
Renzi had been one of 24 campaign co-chairs for Senator John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee for president.
New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer is joined by his wife Silda as he makes a statement to reporters during a news conference following a report that he was involved in a prostitution ring Monday, March 10, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
"NY governor linked to prostitution ring"
By Amy Westfeldt, Associated Press Writer, March 10, 2008
NEW YORK --Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the crusading politician who built his career on rooting out corruption, apologized Monday after allegations surfaced that he paid thousands of dollars for a high-end call girl. He did not elaborate on the scandal, which drew calls for his resignation.
At a hastily called news conference, Spitzer stood next to his stone-faced wife and bit his lips, telling reporters: "I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family."
"I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself," he said. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."
As he walked out, reporters shouted: "Will you resign?" He did not answer.
The New York Democrat's involvement in the ring was caught on a federal wiretap as part of an investigation opened in recent months, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry.
Four people allegedly connected to the ring, identified in court papers as the Emperors Club VIP, were arrested last week. The ring arranged connections between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris, prosecutors said.
According to the law enforcement official, Spitzer is the person identified in legal papers as "Client 9," who paid to bring the prostitute named "Kristen" from New York to Washington for a four-hour tryst at a hotel on Feb. 13.
The court papers gave this account of the encounter:
A defendant, Temeka Rachelle Lewis, confirmed that Client 9 would be "paying for everything -- train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, mini bar or room service, travel time, and hotel."
The client paid $4,300 in cash to the service, with some being used for the encounter and the rest apparently to be used for credit. When discussing how the payments would be arranged, Client 9 told Lewis: "Yup, same as in the past, no question about it," suggesting it was a routine exchange.
The prostitute, who authorities described as a "petite, pretty brunette, 5-feet-5 inches, and 105 pounds," met the client in Room 871 at about 10 p.m.
In a conversation with the booking agent, Kristen said that she liked the client and that she did not think he was difficult.
The agent said she had been told the client "would ask you to do things that ... you might not think were safe ... very basic things," according to the papers, but that Kristen responded by saying, "I have a way of dealing with that ... I'd be, like, listen dude, you really want the sex?"
Spitzer has not been charged, and prosecutors did not comment on the case. The four defendants charged in the case last week were charged with violating the federal Mann Act, a 1910 law that outlaws traveling across state lines for prostitution.
The scandal was first reported on The New York Times' Web site.
Spitzer spoke about an hour and a half later. Stunned lawmakers gathered around televisions at the state Capitol in Albany to watch, and a media mob gathered outside the office of Democratic Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who would become governor if Spitzer were to resign. It took opponents only minutes to call for his resignation.
"Today's news that Eliot Spitzer was likely involved with a prostitution ring and his refusal to deny it leads to one inescapable conclusion: He has disgraced his office and the entire state of New York," said Assembly Republican leader James Tedisco. "He should resign his office immediately."
Spitzer, 48, built his political reputation on rooting out corruption, including several headline-making battles with Wall Street while serving as attorney general. He stormed into the governor's office in 2006 with a historic share of the vote, vowing to continue his no-nonsense approach to fixing one of the nation's worst governments.
Time magazine had named him "Crusader of the Year" when he was attorney general and the tabloids proclaimed him "Eliot Ness."
But his term as governor has been marred by problems, including an unpopular plan to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and a plot by his aides to smear Spitzer's main Republican nemesis.
Spitzer had been expected to testify to the state Public Integrity Commission he had created to answer for his role in the scandal, in which his aides were accused of misusing state police to compile travel records to embarrass Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno.
Bruno wouldn't comment when asked what Spitzer should do.
"I feel very badly for the governor's wife, for his children," Bruno said. "The important thing for the people of New York state is that people in office do the right thing."
Spitzer, who has three teenage daughters, had served two terms as attorney general where he pursued criminal and civil cases and cracked down on misconduct and conflicts of interests on Wall Street and in corporate America. He had previously been a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, handling organized crime and white-collar crime cases.
His cases as state attorney general included a few criminal prosecutions of prostitution rings and into tourism involving prostitutes.
In 2004, he was part of an investigation of an escort service in New York City that resulted in the arrest of 18 people on charges of promoting prostitution and related charges.
Associated Press Writer Mike Gormley contributed to this report from Albany, N.Y.
"Paterson admits affair as term begins"
The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — With his predecessor's term felled by a sex scandal, brand-new Gov. David Paterson tried to come clean about failings in his marriage just hours after assuming office by acknowledging a years-old affair.
Paterson was sworn in almost exactly a week after allegations first surfaced that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer was "Client 9" of a high-priced call girl service. Responding to rumors circulating in Albany, Paterson and his wife, Michelle, told the Daily News of New York City that both had affairs during a rough patch in their marriage several years ago.
"This was a marriage that appeared to be going sour at one point," Paterson told the Daily News. "But I went to counseling and we decided we wanted to make it work. Michelle is well aware of what went on."
Paterson told the newspaper that he maintained a relationship with another woman from 1999 until 2001. He and his wife, Michelle, eventually sought counseling and repaired their relationship. The couple did not go into details.
Paterson and the other woman sometimes stayed at a Days Inn on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the governor said, adding that his Albany staff sometimes stayed there as well when they were in the city. Paterson said he did not use government or campaign funds to pay for the romantic encounters.
A spokesman for the governor did not immediately reply to requests for comment about Paterson's interview, which came hours after the governor assumed office with a message of unity. He became the state's first black chief executive and the nation's second legally blind governor.
Paterson, 53, who becomes New York's 55th governor, has said he will get right to work. The Legislature faces an April 1 deadline to pass an estimated $124 billion budget, and Paterson also said that health care, education, jobs and problems facing "the single mother with two jobs" need immediate attention.
Before reluctantly accepting Spitzer's offer to run with him as lieutenant governor, Paterson was a Democratic state senator for more than two decades, representing parts of Harlem and Manhattan's Upper West Side.
His wife had tears in her eyes for most of the ceremony.
"Every time I hear David speak, I want to cry," she said afterward. "I'm just very happy I was able to live to see this day."
Politicians past and present, including presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and governors from three neighboring states, attended the ceremony.
Federal prosecutors must still decide whether to pursue charges against Spitzer. The married father of three teenage girls was accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on prostitutes — including a call girl in Washington the night before Valentine's Day.
"Spitzer case highlights a culture of misconduct: New York capital long known for sexual escapades"
By Michael Gormley, Associated Press, March 21, 2008
ALBANY, N.Y. - Of all the wisecracks heard in the marble halls of New York's Capitol after Eliot Spitzer's downfall in a call-girl scandal, one jest enlightened as much as it stung: The former governor's got to be the only guy in Albany who pays for sex.
It is an open secret that there is a lot of fooling around going on at the state house. And at other state houses, too.
Governor David Paterson, in an extraordinary news conference on Tuesday, his first full day on the job after taking over from Spitzer, acknowledged he had had extramarital affairs with a number of women while he was a state senator.
At night legislators, young staffers, lobbyists, and reporters mix at two or three bars just blocks from the Capitol. And there are numerous receptions, campaign stops, and caucuses where lawmakers often have opportunities for sexual liaisons.
The hanky-panky even has its own lexicon: There's the "Bear Mountain Compact," which says that what goes on north of the state park just outside New York City stays there. Lobbyists, staffers, and reporters who seek to enhance their influence by bedding powerful lawmakers are known as "big game hunters." And the men who sleep with the female lawmakers are "boy toys."
"Unfortunately, many of the people who seek public office are flawed people to begin with, and the environment in Albany just tends to bring that out," said Paul Clyne, former district attorney in Albany.
Up until a few years ago, lawmakers would go "window shopping" for interns at the start of every legislative session. In a practice that went on for decades, the interns would be corralled in a Capitol newsstand, and legislators would take their pick.
In 2004 Clyne issued a scathing report on the internship program, famously saying he would never let his daughter become an intern. The report led to changes in the program, including an end to fraternization between lawmakers and interns outside the office.
"There was a lot hitting on us and boundaries being crossed," said one female lobbyist who was part of that scene for years.
In truth, the phenomenon is not new, and it's not confined to Albany. By many accounts, the same thing goes on at other state capitals, particularly where the state house is far from the main population centers and lawmakers stay overnight several times a week. Men and women outside politics are prone to some of the same behavior when they go on business trips.
"One of the things about Washington and every state capital is for some people it's like going to a convention," said state Assemblyman John McEneny. "What happens is you get individuals who would not behave the same way if they had the disapproval of friends and neighbors keeping an eye on them."
In Colorado, state representative Michael Garcia resigned this year after a female lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct at a bar. He said he engaged in "consensual" but "inappropriate" conduct. And Washington state representative Richard Curtis resigned this year after he was accused of stopping at an adult bookstore, picking up a man, and bringing him to his hotel room for sex. Curtis refused to pay, and he claimed the man and his associates tried to blackmail him by threatening to expose the married lawmaker. In 2005, Arkansas state representative Dwayne Dobbins resigned and pleaded guilty to harassment after he was accused of fondling a 17-year-old girl at his home.
Accusations of sex and politics have taken down congressmen and senators, and nearly brought down President Clinton in 1998. A sex scandal was the undoing of New Jersey governor James E. McGreevey in 2004, and another derailed Colorado senator Gary Hart's 1988 presidential campaign.
"It really is not anything new," said Tom Fiedler, who covered Hart's downfall as a reporter with the Miami Herald and is now a visiting lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. "I would have no reason to believe any public officer is any less susceptible to temptations of the flesh than any one who is not in public office."
But the New York state capital seems to have an outsize history of sexual conduct and misconduct.
Last week, Spitzer's career collapsed just days after the 48-year-old married man was identified by federal authorities as Client 9 of a prostitution ring.
Other Albany cases include Michael Boxley, the chief lawyer for the speaker of the Assembly, who was led out of the Capitol in handcuffs in 2003 and later pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct after a legislative aide accused him of rape. In 2004 a 19-year-old intern said state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV gave her alcohol and took her to his motel room for sex. Powell said the sex was consensual; no charges were filed.
"Court action in NY governor-prostitution case"
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors in Manhattan say to expect court action today in connection with the prostitution ring that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
The U.S. attorney's office says in a statement that a "proceeding of interest" will be held this morning. Further details were not available.
Four people are charged in the case with conspiracy to violate federal prostitution laws.
Spitzer, who's identified in the court papers as Client No. 9, has not been charged. He announced his resignation as governor on March 12.
The Boston Globe - Daily Briefing, June 4, 2008, "Guilty plea entered in call girl scandal"
NEW YORK - A woman accused of helping run the prostitution ring patronized by Eliot Spitzer, the former governor, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate federal prostitution laws. Prosecutors said Cecil Suwal, 23, ran the day-to-day operations of the Emperors Club V.I.P. escort company, which charged clients up to $5,500 an hour for the services of its women. Suwal was accused of supervising the company's booking agents, paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to prostitutes, and controlling shell companies used to hide the ring's profits. (AP)
"Sen. Stevens Indicted On 7 Corruption Counts: Longest-Serving GOP Senator Is Accused of Making False Statements About Money From Alaska Oil Firm"
By Carrie Johnson and Paul Kane, Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 30, 2008; A01
Alaska's Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history, was indicted yesterday on seven charges of making false statements about more than $250,000 that corporate executives doled out to overhaul his Anchorage area house.
A federal grand jury in the District accused Stevens of concealing on financial disclosure statements lucrative gifts from the now-defunct oil company Veco and its top executives, including a Viking gas grill, a tool cabinet and a wraparound deck. At one point, Veco employees and contractors jacked up the senator's mountainside house on stilts and added a new first floor, with two bedrooms and a bathroom, the indictment says.
The senator, who once oversaw more than $900 billion in federal spending each year as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he has "temporarily relinquished" his senior posts on several committees, in accordance with Senate rules, while he focuses on the legal battle ahead.
Stevens, 84, the first sitting U.S. senator to face criminal charges in 15 years, adamantly denied the allegations in a statement yesterday afternoon.
"I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. senator," said Stevens, whose more than five decades of public service date to the missions he flew for the Army Air Corps during World War II. "The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that."
He is the highest-profile lawmaker to be indicted in an Alaska political corruption investigation that began in 2004 and has resulted in seven convictions. Before the federal probe started, emboldened legislators in Juneau had worn baseball caps with the initials "CBC," which stood for "Corrupt Bastards Club."
Interest by federal officials, including the FBI and the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, became public in 2006, when law enforcement agents executed search warrants at the offices of six state legislators, including Stevens's son, Ben Stevens, a former state Senate president. The following year, agents arrived with warrants to search Ted Stevens's house in Girdwood, Alaska, which he calls "the chalet."
Ted Stevens is among more than a dozen current and former members of Congress who have come under federal investigation in recent years because of their connections to lobbyists and corporate interests. His indictment further imperils Senate Republicans, who hold 49 seats now but face the possibility of losing at least half a dozen in the November elections.
Stevens's spokesman said yesterday that the senator will continue to seek another term. He is locked in a tight reelection battle with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D), who in recent polls had edged slightly ahead. Stevens's main opponent in the Aug. 26 Republican primary is a little-known businessman.
Elements of the Veco investigation also have ensnared Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), a former chairman of the House transportation committee who, since taking office in 1973, has worked with Stevens to bring federal money to Alaska. Young remains under government scrutiny but has not been charged.
Former Veco chief executive Bill J. Allen, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and bribing public officials, figured prominently in yesterday's indictment. In one instance, court papers said, he agreed to exchange a new 1999 Land Rover for a much less valuable 1964 Ford Mustang owned by the lawmaker after Stevens expressed interest in finding a new vehicle for his daughter.
In return, Allen and other unnamed Veco officials for years sought Stevens's help with partnerships in Pakistan and Russia, with grants from the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies, and with a variety of other issues, prosecutors said. The assistance was sometimes provided by Stevens or staff members, they said, but at times no help was offered.
That may explain why authorities charged Stevens with multiple violations of the Ethics in Government Act, which carry five-year maximum prison sentences, rather than bribery charges that could result in 15-year maximum terms, legal analysts said.
The ethics law requires elected officials to disclose gifts that exceed a few hundred dollars and debts that exceed $10,000 during any point in the year. Stevens flouted the requirements from 1999 to 2006, according to the indictment.
David H. Laufman, a former federal prosecutor and House ethics committee investigator, said bribery cases present significant challenges for prosecutors. "It's a very hard case from an evidentiary standpoint to bring because of the need of the government to put on evidence of a quid pro quo," he said.
In interviews with reporters and in his prepared statement yesterday, Stevens hinted that he will mount a defense based on his belief that he was paying for all the home renovations and labor costs himself. His attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., did not return calls yesterday.
Stevens, who lacks a commanding physical presence and wears an "Incredible Hulk" tie on key legislative days, has been known for his angry outbursts at colleagues over perceived professional slights. In 2005, after he lost a fight to open an Alaskan wildlife refuge for oil drilling, he threatened to tour the nation and campaign against every senator who opposed him.
But Stevens is a larger-than-life political figure in Alaska. Appointed to his current seat in December 1968, he has easily won every race since and has proudly funneled billions of federal dollars to his home state.
From 1997 through 2004, Stevens served as the chairman or ranking member of the powerful Appropriations Committee. From 2003 to 2006, he was president pro tempore of the Senate, putting him in the line of succession to become president.
Even after the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006, Stevens retained power. He has been the ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, where the chairman, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), is such a good friend that Stevens was given the honorific title of vice chairman. He also has retained the top GOP spot on the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees Pentagon spending.
Democrats and Republicans remained tight-lipped about the indictment yesterday, though some Democrats expressed regret for the senior lawmaker.
"It's a sad day for him, for us," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters at his weekly news conference. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared before cameras but declined to comment and walked away.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, said federal prosecutors would be very careful about bringing such a highly sensitive indictment, especially in the months before an election.
"You go over it and go over it and go over it, to make sure you got it right," he said. "It's more of making sure you've got it all right, and then, in the DOJ's case, make sure you've got all the appropriate sign-offs from above."
At a news conference in Washington, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew W. Friedrich said prosecutors closely followed internal protocols for bringing criminal charges against elected officials.
"We bring cases based on our evaluation of the facts and the law," he said. "We bring cases when they are ready to be charge, and that's what happened here."
Stevens will be allowed to surrender to authorities on his own terms, Justice Department officials said. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, but an arraignment date has not been set.
The investigation involving Ben Stevens is the subject of continuing scrutiny, but John Wolfe, a Seattle-based attorney for the younger Stevens, said yesterday that he was "not aware of any activity going on in Mr. Stevens's case right now."
Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
"NY escort worker pleads guilty in Spitzer case"
The Associated Press, Monday, August 25, 2008
NEW YORK (AP) — A woman accused of helping arrange trysts between pricey escorts and their customers has pleaded guilty in the prostitution scandal that forced Eliot Spitzer to step down as governor.
Tanya Hollander, 36, of Rhinebeck, N.Y., pleaded today to a charge of conspiracy to violate the travel act. It's against the law to cross state lines while furthering an illegal business.
The plea means all four employees of the Emperors Club VIP arrested in March have admitted their roles in the illicit business.
Still uncertain is whether Spitzer will be charged in the probe that began last summer after a series of suspicious banking transactions.
Spitzer resigned March 12 after it was disclosed court papers referred to him as "Client-9," a man who met a prostitute known as Kristen on Feb. 13 in a Washington, D.C., hotel.
In June, Emperors Club VIP operator, Mark Brener, 62, of Cliffside Park, N.J., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a prostitution offense and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He agreed to serve 2 to 2 1/2 years in prison as part of a deal with prosecutors.
That same month Brener's former girlfriend, 23-year-old Cecil Suwal, pleaded guilty to money laundering, conspiracy and conspiring to promote prostitution, admitting her role as a manager of the company. She has agreed to spend as much as two years in prison.
In May, Temeka Lewis, a booking agent for the escort service, pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution and money laundering.
All three are awaiting sentencing.
"Spitzer Won't Face Charges for Scandal: No Evidence That Ex-Governor Used Public or Campaign Money for Prostitution"
By Carrie Johnson, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, November 7, 2008; A02
Former New York governor Eliot L. Spitzer will not face criminal charges for his role in a prostitution scandal that drove him from office this year, prosecutors announced yesterday.
Investigators for the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service uncovered no evidence that Spitzer had misused public or campaign money to pay women employed by the Emperors Club VIP, a high-priced New York prostitution ring.
Justice Department guidelines disfavor indictments against clients of prostitution rings, even those who transport women across state lines to have sex in violation of the Mann Act. Spitzer acknowledged making payments to the service, which amounted to "acceptance of responsibility for his conduct," said Michael J. Garcia, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
"We have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter," he said in a statement issued yesterday.
In all, four people connected to the Emperors Club as bookers and organizers pleaded guilty to criminal offenses for their roles in the scandal. Authorities looked closely at building a case against Spitzer based on his withdrawals of money and his payments to a shell company called QAT Consulting Group. But they ultimately determined that there was "insufficient evidence" to proceed against him, Garcia said.
Spitzer, a Democrat who had crusaded against Wall Street abuses as New York's attorney general, encountered a rockier path in Albany, where he clashed with the Republican majority leader and even members of his own political camp.
In recent months, Spitzer receded from public view, working at his father's real estate investment company and maintaining an unusual silence for a man who once dominated the headlines and used his office as a bully pulpit. Behind the scenes, defense attorneys Theodore V. Wells Jr. and Michele Hirshman provided financial data to prosecutors in an effort to persuade them to drop the case.
Yesterday, Spitzer made a statement through a New York public relations firm saying that he appreciated "the impartiality and thoroughness of the investigation."
"I resigned my position as governor because I recognized that my conduct was unworthy of an elected official. I once again apologize for my actions, and for the pain and disappointment those actions caused my family and the many people who supported me during my career in public life," he said.
The disclosure in March that Spitzer was "Client-9" in a seamy affidavit involving an international prostitution operation set off a media firestorm. Room 871 of Washington's Mayflower Hotel, where Spitzer had a rendezvous with prostitute Ashley Alexandra Dupre in February, became a minor tourist attraction. FBI agents previously had trailed Spitzer to the hotel in an unsuccessful effort to catch him in the act.
Don Buchwald, an attorney for Dupre, said yesterday that she is "pleased the matter is behind her."
Prosecutors said their investigation began as an effort to determine whether the governor was engaged in public corruption. They noticed unusual payments from Spitzer into the QAT Consulting bank account, an account that had been used to launder more than $1 million from the prostitution ring.
Investigators obtained wiretaps in which Spitzer and other customers arranged liaisons with women, sometimes paying more than $4,000 per night.
Spitzer resigned in the middle of his first gubernatorial term, at a news conference in which his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, stood gravely by his side.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
"Tempers flare over budget"
By Michael Gormaley, Associated Press, Tuesday, November 18, 2008
ALBANY, N.Y. — An angry Gov. David Paterson yesterday night called legislative leaders to a public negotiation session after he said the Senate's Republican majority is playing a dangerous political game that threatens New York's fiscal future.
The Democratic governor lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, for what Paterson said was a refusal to negotiate billions of dollars of spending cuts during a fiscal crisis in the face of strong opposition by Albany's powerful education, healthcare and public employee unions.
"I would have expected professional responses from the leadership," Paterson told reporters yesterday night on the eve of his emergency legislative session. "The majority leader has refused every attempt to negotiate ... this is a time for leadership."
Senators given choice
Skelos, after a closed-door session with Republican senators, said he would put Paterson's proposals for $5 billion in cuts to promised school aid increases and to healthcare on the Senate floor today. Although Skelos said he would vote against the measure himself because it would be too disruptive to schools and students, he said his senators could vote any way they choose.
Paterson said that was playing a game that assured the proposals would be defeated.
But Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith didn't even promise to bring Paterson's proposals to the floor for a vote in today's session that Paterson had called weeks ago.
The difference, according to Paterson, is that Silver and Smith have agreed to negotiate an agreement that could be passed by the full Legislature.
"The only thing we are doing is what the governor asked us to do," said John McArdle, spokesman for Skelos. "If that's a game, then this governor plays this game better than anyone."
Paterson also said he might agree to retract his midyear cuts to school aid, which education officials and their lobbyists warned would disrupt instruction and result in layoffs of some teachers. Paterson said a plan to cut state spending enough to at least fill a projected $2 billion deficit in the current fiscal year needs to be achieved today.
Paterson said failure to act today on his $5 billion in proposed cuts would be "more than irresponsible, it doesn't make sense ... it's embarrassing."
"It is really just being out of touch with where the people of New York are," Paterson said in a brief teleconference with reporters yesterday. "The people of New York have no sympathy for the Legislature. Individuals have had to cut back on their costs."
Skelos said the cuts, particularly the midyear school aid cuts, are unfair and should be part of a state budget proposal, not "piecemeal."
"Doing budgets piecemeal, I think that's totally irresponsible," Skelos said. Despite Paterson's urging, Skelos doesn't plan to offer an alternative to the governor's proposals that could be negotiated to approval. Skelos said he didn't recommend a vote by the GOP conference, which was already opposed to Paterson's proposals.
"It's a total lack of leadership for someone to tell us he's not making a recommendation, he's not putting anything together," Silver said.
Meltdown far from over
Paterson said failure to address the projected $2 billion deficit this fiscal year will drive up the deficit forecast for next year from $12.5 billion to $15 billion.
Paterson noted Citigroup Inc.'s announcement yesterday it will cut 53,000 more jobs, showing Wall Street's meltdown is far from over. And state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced state tax collections have been so dismal that officials projected zero dollars in business tax revenue for October. State budget officials had projected the tax would generate $111 million during the month.
Albany's powerful special interests — including teachers' unions and other public employee unions — have fought Paterson's proposals.
Hundreds of protesters were scheduled to arrive in more than two dozen buses today to oppose his education and health care cuts.
Smith, the Senate Democratic leader who is in line to lead the new Democratic majority come Jan. 1, wouldn't say if he had enough votes to pass any of Paterson's bills.
Silver said some of Paterson's proposals go too far, but he said the Legislature should take action soon because delay will only make the fiscal chaos worse.
"Spitzer prostitute sits down for TV interview"
(via Yahoo! News) Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 5:10 pm ET
NEW YORK – The prostitute at the center of the salacious scandal that brought down former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and generated national headlines is going to dish on her life as a pricey escort. ABC says Ashley Alexandra Dupre sat down with Diane Sawyer on the program "20/20."
Dupre reveals how an "upper middle-class, girl next door got into the profession and the psychological journey she continues to experience."
Spitzer resigned March 12, 2008, after it was disclosed he had used Emperors Club VIP. Dupre worked for the escort service.
On Thursday (11/13/2008), federal prosecutors said they wouldn't bring criminal charges against Spitzer, marking the end of the saga.
Four people pleaded guilty to running the prostitution operation.
The show will air Friday at 10 p.m. (11/21/2008).
GOVERNOR'S DISGRACE "I try not to revisit that place too often, but when I think about his speech, I think of her face, her eyes, the hurt," Ashley Alexandra Dupre said of Eliot Spitzer and his wife.
"Prostitute apologizes to wife of Spitzer"
By Associated Press, November 20, 2008
NEW YORK - The prostitute at the center of the scandal that brought down former New York governor Eliot Spitzer has apologized to his wife.
Ashley Alexandra Dupre told People magazine that the FBI informed her in early March that it was investigating one of her clients. A few days later, she found out which client when she recognized Spitzer on TV - resigning. That was March 12, after revelations Spitzer had used Emperors Club VIP, where Dupre worked.
She says she was stricken by the pained expression on Silda Wall Spitzer's face.
"I try not to revisit that place too often, but when I think about his speech, I think of her face, her eyes, the hurt," Dupre said.
Her message to Silda Wall Spitzer: "I'm sorry for your pain."
Dupre, 23, said Spitzer was polite and businesslike when they met.
"Some guys, they want to have conversations and really get to know each other," she said. "With him, it clearly was not like that. It was more of a transaction. Strictly business."
Dupre said she practiced safe sex with her clients, including Spitzer. On her lawyer's advice, she would not elaborate on their liaison, or say whether Spitzer visited her more than once. She did say that he dressed casually, and she did not see his security detail.
Dupre also spoke with Diane Sawyer for a "20/20" segment to be aired tomorrow. In the interview, ABC said, she describes how an "upper middle-class girl next door got into the profession and the psychological journey she continues to experience."
Four people have pleaded guilty to running the prostitution operation. Last week prosecutors said they wouldn't bring criminal charges against Spitzer.
Dupre envisions her future in music, fashion, and writing books, but not prostitution.
"Never again," she said.
"Spitzer case probed by House panel"
By Devlin Barrett, Associated Press, Wednesday, November 26, 2008
WASHINGTON — A Congressional committee is investigating the circumstances that led to the downfall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer earlier this year, and whether expanded powers under the Patriot Act were misused by federal agents.
Spitzer resigned as governor after his February rendezvous with a prostitute at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington came to light as part of a federal investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and other law enforcement agencies.
Ostensibly, Spitzer was in Washington at the time to testify before part of the House Financial Services Committee. Now, that committee demands to know how and why the Democratic governor popped up on the radar of criminal investigators.
Officials have said a number of unusual money transfers by the governor triggered a "suspicious activity report," or SAR, within the banking system. Eventually, that SAR led to a full-blown criminal investigation of Spitzer.
"We have no concern about Eliot Spitzer. That is not what this is about," said Steve Adamske, spokesman for Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank. Frank could not immediately be reached for comment.
The panel seeks details of the Spitzer case only to the extent that it shows how effective the suspicious activity reports have been in catching terrorists and their financiers, Adamske said.
He said the panel would like to know exactly how the Spitzer case started.
"It is a concern that we have that (the law) could be used for political reasons," Adamske said.
Several committee members wrote a joint letter to financial authorities in July seeking specific answers on the Spitzer case, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The committee hopes to hold a hearing on the matter next year, though much of their schedule is up in the air given the uncertainty surrounding the financial crisis and what sort of stimulus efforts the new Congress will try to make as soon as they arrive in January.
It could also be a political problem for lawmakers charged with oversight of the nation's financial industry, to be seen spending time this year and next year examining the details of a disgraced politician rather than focusing all their attention on the nation's economic health.
Representative Capuano's earmarks to the firm's clients totaled $4.4 million for defense-related projects.
"Lobbyists under scrutiny linked to Capuano donors: Earmarks went to Massachusetts clients"
By Alan Wirzbicki, Boston Globe Correspondent, April 2, 2009
WASHINGTON - US Representative Michael E. Capuano, Democrat of Somerville, received more than $60,000 in campaign contributions from donors associated with a high-powered lobbying firm at the center of an FBI investigation, and inserted earmarks for three of the firm's Massachusetts clients into recent defense spending bills.
The firm, the PMA Group, is reportedly under federal scrutiny for using straw donors to funnel illegal campaign contributions to dozens of lawmakers. In an interview with the Globe, Capuano said that he has no way of knowing if the donations his campaign received were made illegally, but that he has given $60,500 in donations from the firm's employees and its political action committee to Boston-area charities to "hold myself to a higher standard."
He said he has not been contacted by the FBI. Capuano received the 10th-most donations from PMA of any lawmaker, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics of the firm's giving since 1989.
Capuano said his earmarks to the firm's clients - totaling $4.4 million for defense-related projects in or near his district in the last two years - were intended to help provide jobs and money for his constituents.
"I think earmarks are perfectly appropriate as long as they are transparent," he said. "All mine are. I think every one speaks for itself."
Another Massachusetts lawmaker, Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of South Boston, received $19,000 in donations from the firm's employees and its political action committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis. Lynch requested an earmark for one of the firm's clients in an omnibus spending bill passed by the House in February.
Lynch's office said the earmark, which would fund a program to track nuclear weapons, was part of his efforts to promote nonproliferation.
"As far as PMA's involvement with PTC, campaign contributions are currently being reviewed, and a determination whether to return any contributions will be made at the appropriate time," said Lynch's spokeswoman, Meaghan Maher, referring to one of the lobbying firm's Massachusetts clients, Parametric Technology Corp. of Needham.
PMA's employees and political action committee gave much smaller donations to Massachusetts Senators John Kerry ($6,000) and Edward M. Kennedy ($2,500) and Representatives John Tierney ($2,000) and John Olver ($1,000), according to the analysis. The offices of Kennedy, Tierney, and Olver did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Kerry said he had not received any money from the firm in the last five years.
The PMA Group had its offices raided by the FBI in November and this week shut its doors permanently. The firm, which boasted hundreds of clients in the defense industry, specialized in winning earmarks in annual military spending bills. PMA also hosted fundraisers for politicians, including one in Washington for Capuano in September.
Earmarks - federal spending items that are inserted directly into the budget by Congress and circumvent the normal government contracting process - are the frequent target of criticism by government watchdog groups. Democrats promised to curtail earmarking after taking power in 2006, but the practice remains widespread.
"You worry about this perpetuating the perception, or the reality, of a pay to play system here in Washington," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group. "Earmarks have become the currency of the pay-to-play system. They are the grease that makes the wheels go."
In the interview, Capuano vigorously defended earmarks as an effective way of bringing federal dollars to his constituents. He said he also obtained earmarks for local businesses that did not employ lobbyists.
"I don't tell them to hire a lobbyist," he said.
Capuano estimated about 30 percent of his earmarks go to entities that do not have lobbyists.
In all, Capuano received $29,795,600 in earmarks in fiscal 2008 appropriation bills, including $8,415,000 worth for which he was the sole sponsor, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. He ranked third in earmarks among Massachusetts representatives that year, trailing Olver and former representative Martin Meehan.
The three Massachusetts earmark recipients that were represented by PMA - Parametric Technology Corp., Abt Associates of Cambridge, and Textron Systems Corporation of Wilmington - received a total of $3.6 million in earmarks sponsored by Capuano in last year's defense budget. Parametric also received two more earmarks in this year's budget, one from Capuano for $800,000 and another from Lynch for $1.4 million.
Representatives of Parametric and Textron did not return telephone calls. Peter Broderick, vice president for communications at Abt, said the money from his firm's earmark would be used to study post-traumatic stress disorder in returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
"We contracted with PMA to see if they could help us identify any opportunities in that area," Broderick said. "They introduced us to Congressman Capuano because of his mutual interest in that topic." Broderick said the firm does not make political contributions and ended its relationship with PMA in December.
The investigation into PMA has focused on the firm's founder, Paul Magliocchetti. He and Capuano had a social friendship, including dinners and parties.
One dinner hosted by Magliocchetti was featured in a Vanity Fair magazine piece on raucous Washington nightlife.
The New York Times reported this week that PMA is being investigated for allegedly using front donors to give on behalf of Magliocchetti, thereby exceeding federal campaign contribution limits. For example, the Times reported that two of Magliocchetti's neighbors at his vacation home in Florida, a sommelier and golf-course marketing director, had given $150,000 in simultaneous donations to lawmakers.
Capuano received money from both but said there would have been no way to detect any improper donations.
Michael Kranish of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Gov. Mark Sanford tearfully admits to taking a secret trip to Argentina and being unfaithful to his wife. The scandal comes just a week after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) confessed to an affair. The governor said he is resigning as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain) 6/25/2009.
"Senator’s parents gave $96k to mistress"
By Associated Press, July 10, 2009
LAS VEGAS - US Senator John Ensign’s parents gave the Nevada Republican’s mistress and her family nearly $100,000 “out of concern for the well-being of longtime family friends during a difficult time,’’ a lawyer for the senator said yesterday.
In a statement sent to reporters, Paul Coggins described the payment as a single check for $96,000 given to Cindy and Doug Hampton and two of their children. It was given in April 2008, Coggins said, after the senator told his parents of his affair with Cindy Hampton, a campaign aide and longtime friend.
“None of the gifts came from campaign or official funds, nor were they related to any campaign or official duties,’’ the statement said. “Senator Ensign has complied with all applicable laws and Senate ethics rules.’’
The statement was made a day after Doug Hampton told a Las Vegas television show that Ensign, 51, paid Cindy Hampton more than $25,000 in severance when she left her job as treasurer for two Ensign-controlled campaign committees.
Ensign had not commented directly on allegations of payments to the Hamptons, but through a spokesman called Doug Hampton’s statements “consistently inaccurate.’’
A Washington watchdog group has said such a payment could have violated campaign finance laws because it was not reported by the committees.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has sought a Senate ethics investigation and yesterday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a criminal probe into the matter.
Coggins said no laws were violated with the $96,000 check.
“The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others,’’ he said.
FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2008 file photo Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. speaks at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Ensign, dogged by ethics questions and repercussions within his own party after divulging an affair with a staffer's wife and his parents' $96,000 payout to the woman's family, hopes to find some refuge this week in Lake Tahoe. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)
"APNewsBreak: Ensign: I did nothing 'legally wrong'"
By Scott Sonner, Associated Press Writer, August 19, 2009
FERNLEY, Nev. – Sen. John Ensign told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his affair with a friend's wife was different from former President Bill Clinton's relationship with a White House intern because he didn't lie about it under oath.
"I haven't done anything legally wrong," the Nevada Republican said.
"President Clinton stood right before the American people and he lied to the American people," Ensign said. "You remember that famous day he lied to the American people, plus the fact I thought he committed perjury. That's why I voted for the articles of impeachment."
Ensign made the remarks before being introduced to a standing ovation from about 100 people at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in rural Fernley, about 40 miles east of Reno.
Ensign opened his speech by acknowledging what he called a "distraction."
"I think it would be inappropriate to start any other way than to say I'm sorry," he said. "I've said I'm sorry. I can't say I'm sorry enough. I made a big mistake in my life and I apologize once again to all of you."
The luncheon was Ensign's first public appearance in his home state since acknowledging in June that he had an extramarital affair with former campaign aide Cynthia Hampton.
Ensign resigned as head of the Republican Policy Committee after admitting to the affair with Hampton from December 2007 to August 2008. Hampton's husband, Doug, was Ensign's administrative assistant in his Washington, D.C., Senate office and the families were friends.
Ensign's attorney has also said that Ensign's parents paid the woman and her family $96,000 after learning about the affair.
Ensign once called on President Bill Clinton to resign after his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky erupted in 1998, declaring: "The truth must come out."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, government watchdog group, has called for investigations into Ensign by the Senate Ethics Committee and the Federal Elections Commission.
Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said Ensign's distinction between his situation and that of Clinton was essentially an attempt to claim his affair was less contemptible.
"Isn't that a little like saying, 'It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is?'" she said in a statement Wednesday. "One politician comparing his illicit affair to another's is a sure sign his career is in trouble."
Ensign told the AP on Wednesday that he can understand how some people might "have a problem" with the fact he called for Clinton's resignation but won't resign himself.
"But if you look at the times ... I was in the House of Representatives but basically was sitting in judgment of the president evaluating the case. I was basically a jurist at that point. I thought there was a violation of a felony," he said.
Ensign said in the interview he never considered resigning from the Senate and is focused on fulfilling his six-year term.
"What we're trying to do is go around to people in the state of Nevada and tell them how sorry I am for what I did. But now I need to focus on earning their trust back by working harder than I've ever worked for them," Ensign said. "There's no magic to hard work. It is literally focusing on what is important to Nevadans. Right now, the biggest issue Nevadans and the rest of the country face is health care."
Ensign spoke for about 30 minutes at the luncheon and answered a handful of questions submitted on cards. None were about the affair.
Later Wednesday he toured a U.S. Forest Service project at Lake Tahoe aimed at thinning forests to reduce fuel loads in an effort to reduce wildfire threats. On Thursday, he is scheduled to host the 12th annual Tahoe Environmental Summit that Clinton and Vice President Al Gore first hosted in 1997.
Representative Christopher Lee, the Republican from New York, in 2009; and in an image allegedly sent to a woman he met on Craigslist. (Left, Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly, via Getty Images; Gawker.com).
"Lee resigns over suggestive photo"
By: Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan, POLITICO, February 9, 2011
Rep. Christopher Lee resigned Wednesday evening after it was revealed that he sent a suggestive photograph to a woman he met on the Internet, a swift outcome for a scandal that was over before it even began.
The New York Republican was the subject of a Gawker story Wednesday morning that said he allegedly looked for a female companion on Craigslist despite having a wife and child. The picture in question showed him posing with dress pants and no shirt, and the Gawker story revealed a string of e-mails suggesting he was looking to meet women on the Internet.
His resignation was stunning for how quickly it happened. There was hardly enough time for the story to become a full-blown scandal — the picture was posted after lunch, and Lee had resigned before the nightly news.
“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York,” Lee wrote in a release he sent out hours after the story was posted. “I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes, and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.”
Lee said the “challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately.”
In the past, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other members of House leadership have made clear their zero tolerance for personal misconduct. Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said his office “doesn’t discuss conversations the speaker has with members.”
Lee, 46, was first elected to Congress in 2008 and gained a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee a few months ago.
The report on Gawker said Lee responded to a Craigslist advertisement looking for “financially & emotionally secure” men. He claimed to be a divorced, 39-year-old lobbyist who is “fit” and “fun,” according to the report.
Lee’s sudden departure — when the scandal was only four hours old, which, by congressional standards, was just the beginning — is the latest example of a lawmaker bailing before the media and political firestorm even begin.
Eric Massa, another ex-lawmaker from upstate New York, resigned from office in March 2010, just days after POLITICO revealed he was under investigation for allegedly harassing male staffers.
And ex-Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) quickly stepped aside last May after it was revealed that he had an extramarital affair with a staffer. Boehner persuaded Souder to quickly depart the House.
Lee, sources said, was one of several junior GOP lawmakers that Boehner allegedly warned to “knock it off” with regard to his partying with female lobbyists last year.
New York’s 26th Congressional District, which Lee represented, is solidly Republican. It went firmly for George W. Bush in 2004, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district by 6 points in 2008. It includes parts of Erie County and extends into the Rochester suburbs.
A bastion of influential Republicans have represented the district, including former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds, former Rep. Bill Paxon — once a close ally of former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.
Lee is the second member of the House to announce their resignation this week. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) is stepping down to run a think tank.
Richard E. Cohen contributed to this report.
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