Florida Republicans took big money from ex-congressman who courted underage boys

  • Republicans are calling Democrats “healers” for supporting school education on sexual orientation.
  • But the ex-Rep. Mark Foley, who sent sexually explicit messages to underage pages, donated a lot of money to Republicans in Florida.
  • Some returned the money, but others accepted it.

Prominent Republicans have slammed critics of Florida’s new sex education bill, whom critics call “Don’t Say Gay”, “trainers” and “pedophiles”.

But some Florida Republicans meanwhile are accepting financial contributions from the former campaign committee of a former congressman who sent sexually explicit messages to underage boys working as congressional pages.

Former Republican Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned his West Palm Beach District seat following the 2006 courier scandal, has made $118,250 in donations and sponsorships to the Palm Beach County Republican Party since 2010 by l through his former Friends of Mark Foley for Congress campaign committee.

Foley’s most recent donation to the Palm Beach County Republican Party came in January, when his campaign committee donated $15,000, according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.

Palm Beach County encompasses Mar-a-Lago, the private luxury club that former President Donald Trump calls home. Mar-a-Lago is also where County Republicans held their annual Lincoln Day fundraiser in March.

A representative who answered the phone for the Palm Beach County Republican Party said it was not group policy to speak to the media and “there is no comment.” The organization’s president, Michael Barnett, did not respond to email questions or return a phone call.

The Palm Beach County Republican Party appears to have already welcomed Foley into its fold, honoring him in 2019 with a service award at his Lobsterfest dinner in Boca Raton, the Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

In remarks at the event, Trump confidant Roger Stone called Foley “a great American patriot” and “a man who needs no apology because he who is without sin throws the first stone”.

Earlier this week, the Palm Beach County Republican Party implored its Facebook followers to “get our school board back” on issues ranging from “woke activism” to “parental rights.” The terms are nebulous, but tend to tap into latent right-wing frustrations that schools have not asked parents for permission when teaching about race relations, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Palm Beach County Republican Party Facebook post

Palm Beach County Republican Party/Facebook

Education issues have become a fiery campaign topic in Florida since Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill limiting sexual orientation and gender instruction in schools, especially among kindergarten students. at least the third year.

Critics, who say the language is too vague, have called it the “Don’t Say Gay” law while some of its advocates in the Republican Party and conservative media have countered that it should be called the “Anti grooming bill.”

Foley was not charged with a crime and said he never had sexual contact with the underage pages, who worked at the US Capitol to help lawmakers and learn about the legislative process.

Foley did not respond to Insider’s inquiry.

Some lawmakers didn’t cash the check

Florida House members who have received campaign donations from Foley’s committee since 2016 include Republicans Mike Caruso, who received $2,000, and Rick Roth, who received $5,000, but neither answered questions from Insider on donations.

Foley also donated $4,130 to the Palm Beach Republican Club, which did not respond to insider requests.

When Foley earlier this year donated $25,000 to Palm Beach State College to help start a scholarship in his name for police academy recruits, the college publicly saluted him.

But not every political organization or candidate who received a check accepted it. Rusty Roberts, a longtime US House aide who is running for Congress himself, received a $1,000 donation in March but returned it.

“Mr. Foley’s check was part of a larger group of checks deposited by campaign administrative staff,” Jim Huckeba, Roberts’ treasurer, told Insider. “When the candidate learned of the contribution in March, he asked me to return the contribution to Mr. Foley with his appreciation.”

In 2016, Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida, received $2,000 from Foley’s campaign committee but said he never cashed the check. Her campaign spokesman, Brad Stewart, confirmed that the campaign never cashed the check and did not want or accept Foley’s donations.

Mast voiced his support for Florida school legislation, imploring critics on Twitter to “stop trying to impose your views on sexuality on our children!”

Former Congressman Mark Foley donated money to charities and politics through his former campaign committee, Friends of Mike Foley.

Former Congressman Mark Foley donated money to charities and politics through his former campaign committee, Friends of Mike Foley.

Theo Wargo/WireImage

“Zombie Campaign”

Shortly after resigning from Congress, Foley went to rehab for alcohol abuse and emotional issues. His attorney has revealed the former congressman was assaulted by a Catholic clergyman when he was a teenager and that Foley was gay, exposing what had once been an open secret on Capitol Hill and in Florida politics. .

Foley is now a lobbyist.

In the first three months of this year — 16 years after leaving office — the Foley campaign committee still had $426,289.38 in cash, according to filings.

Foley left Congress with a seven-figure campaign cash reserve. His former campaign committee remains technically active — a situation, seen among many former members of Congress, which good government organizations have dubbed “zombie campaigns.”

Legally, Foley’s campaign committee can continue to make political and charitable donations and could potentially return the remaining money to the general fund of the US Treasury. But Foley is not allowed to spend the money on himself.

Federal Election Commission Report for Friends of Mark Foley for Congress

A screenshot of the latest Friends of Mark Foley campaign committee spending report for Congress covering the first three months of 2022.

Federal Election Commission

In a 2020 letter to the FEC, Foley’s treasurer, Donna Foley Winterson, said Foley had no plans to run for office again and planned to terminate the account after filing his tax returns from 2022, adding that “a balance deemed sufficient to satisfy our 2022 income tax will be retained.”

Over the years, Foley has slowly but steadily donated his committee’s surplus funds to many other causes, from the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, to food banks and the gay Voices of Pride choir in Palm Beach.

Foley told the Sun Sentinel in 2019 that he sometimes misses being in public service.

“It was my life for so many years,” he said. “And you know it’s hard to be in a room with people who were your big supporters and you let them down. So there’s a bit of, you know, sadness.”

Former Rep. Mark Foley (red shirt in middle frame) sits in the audience as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump watches the crowd during his campaign event at the BB&T Center on August 10, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Florida.

Former Congressman Mark Foley (red shirt in middle frame) sits in the audience as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump watches the crowd during his campaign event at the BB&T Center on August 10, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale , in Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Grooming appears to be a GOP attack

While the Palm Beach County Republican Party appears open to Foley’s involvement in conservative politics, other factions in the party are using terms such as “healer” and “pedophile” following the Florida law dispute. on parental rights in education – critics of the bill call “Don’t say gay.”

DeSantis allies in his office, in conservative politics and in outlets such as Fox News have accused opponents of the law of supporting “groomed” children. The term “grooming” generally refers to pedophiles who attempt to gain the trust of their underage victims to agree to a sexual assault without telling an adult.

The pro-Republican Political Action Committee’s American Principles Project used the term “neat” in a recent fundraising email and several opinion pieces in conservative news outlets called the legislation a “draft anti-grooming law”.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, said she plans to introduce a national version to Congress. This week on Voice of Conservative America, she called the Democrats “the party of pedophiles.”

While Republicans are stepping up their efforts on legislation, insisting that parents need to be informed about their children’s schooling and any questions they may have about their gender identity and sexuality, Democrats and LGBTQ+ rights organizations say they are concerned about dating students with families who don’t accept or even be violent.

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