Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 9:03 a.m.
Former Republican Florida Congressman Mark Foley received his last campaign contribution ever on September 28, 2006 -- a $2,100 check from a Palm City physician. The next day, Foley resigned from Congress, disgraced by a scandal over sexually explicit messages the (sort-of) secretly gay congressman had sent to teenaged boys who had previously served as congressional pages.
But Foley resigned with almost $2 million in his campaign coffers -- money that he'd been building up for years, that he wasn't obligated to return to anybody. And, over the past five and a half years, he's managed to not only give out this money to causes (and politicians) of his choosing but to actually grow the fund through investment, creating a self-sustaining campaign fund for a politician who hasn't run for office in more than half a decade.
Foley has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars since his resignation, all while managing to keep his campaign fund hovering around $1.2 million through investments he made after the 2008 stock market crash.
"I didn't speculate on stocks during my time in Congress," Foley said. "I invested in the stock market when I saw the market at such low levels... You didn't have to be very smart in these last two years to make money in the market."
And make money he did: According to campaign finance documents, he brought in earnings of $5,000 to $30,000 per quarter. Until this year, that is: Between January and the end of March, Foley sold several stocks he'd bought for cheap when the market tanked, and his phantom campaign suddenly had an extra $120,997.
Of that money, he doled out about $15,000, including a $2,000 contribution to the campaign fund of Congressman Allen West.
"I don't agree with everything Allen does," Foley said, but "Allen has been a good friend, and I was very proud of his efforts in Congress."
But Foley said that while he's contributed to several political campaigns, "mostly, I'd rather give to charity."
His statement checks out: Since 2008, Foley's campaign account has sent $47,000 to causes almost exclusively in Palm Beach County, including a $10,000 donation to Jupiter's Drug Abuse Treatment Association in 2010 and 2012 donations to the American Red Cross, Palm Beach Film Institute, West Palm Beach Athletic League, and the International Prostate Cancer Foundation.
In the same time, he gave $8,750 to political committees; the $2,000 that went to West was the largest to a politician, though he also sent $1,000 to Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and $500 to Karen Harrington, a Republican running against Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But running a corporation like this can get expensive -- of the $170,000 Foley has spent since 2008, about $113,000 of it was taxes, administrative costs, and legal fees.
"I haven't made a decision as to what the future of the account will be," Foley said, adding that he's likely to sell more stocks before the end of the year.
He has several options -- he could just donate it all away, sure, but he could also give it to other campaign committees and super PACs if he wanted. And there's another possibility -- Foley could still use the formidable campaign assets he's accumulated to take another run at Congress.
"It's highly unlikely, but you never know," Foley said. "It's a unique year, when you watch candidates all of the sudden going to different districts."
To answer the obvious question, Foley did say that he's "definitely not doing anything this year."
"I haven't made a decision as to what the future of the account will be," he said. "They've always taught me in politics to keep my options open."