Bay Ridge’s four-term Republican congressman has been dipping into campaign funds to finance pleasure trips to exclusive resorts in Florida, Colorado, Nevada and California, according to published reports.
Rep. Vito Fossella violated federal law when he took $53,142 from his campaign war chest to pay for fun-filled trips to the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and the Lodge at Vail, according to the Daily News.
The trips often included his wife and two children, the News reported.
In addition to the alleged misuse of campaign funds, the congressman took $11,000 from political consultants and corporate sponsors for “fact-finding missions,” including a $5,000 stay at Turnberry Isle Resort near Miami, which he charged to a political consultant’s credit card.
Fossella also failed to disclose a free roundtrip to Miami on the private jet of the late Richard Adeo, cited by federal authorities as a Gambino crime family associate.
He even sent out a taxpayer-funded mailing in which it appeared that Muppets Elmo and Rosita were endorsing him — a no-no in the public TV world (see photo).
A Federal Election Commission spokesman would not confirm whether Fossella is under investigation, saying “enforcement matters are confidential under law.”
If found guilty, Fossella would, at most, face a fine, the spokesman said.
Fossella told the Daily News that “mistakes have been made,” but attributed the confusion to poor bookkeeping.
“Everything we’ve done has been consistent with rules and regulations,” he said.
He did not return calls from The Brooklyn Papers.
Fossella has been under increased scrutiny in the wake of corruption scandals that have rocked the national GOP, including the fall of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
Clear links between Abramoff and Fossella were previously reported. Records show that Abramoff hosted a 2002 fundraiser for Fossella at a Yankees/Orioles game in Baltimore that raked in $1,000 a ticket. Fossella has denied that Abramoff was involved in the event.
Steve Harrison, Fossella’s Democratic opponent in November’s election, said: “There seem to be some legs to [the charges], by virtue of the fact that he has admitted that he made some mistakes and has had to amend 18 forms over the years, which seems to an awful lot.”
“This hurts his chances for re-election — he’s clearly out of touch with the people.”