Hollywood loses 'go-to guy' in Foley


WASHINGTON -- Disgraced Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., easily moved between the world of conservative politics and the liberal entertainment industry as he became one of Hollywood's go-to guys on Capitol Hill.

While entertainment industry executives were shocked by the explicit e-mails and instant messages between Foley and a page that led to his resignation, they considered the former congressman an effective representative for them with the Republican Party -- often considered a hostile environment for the industry. Foley resigned Friday after the e-mails came to light.

"He was very effective," said John Feehery, a Republican, who is the MPAA's executive vp external affairs. "We saw him as an effective champion for the industry. It's tragic for a whole lot of reasons. There's the personal reason that it's tragic, especially for the pages. It's politically tragic for Republicans, and in the entertainment industry, we lost an ally."

Feehery and other industry lobbyists were shocked at the revelations contained in the e-mail exchanges between Foley and a 16-year-old male page. While Foley's homosexuality was an open secret among industry insiders, the unhealthy fascination he took with minors that surfaced in the e-mails stunned entertainment industry lobbyists.

On Tuesday, in Palm Beach, Fla., Foley attorney David Roth announced for the first time that Foley is gay, according to the Associated Press. He said Foley never had sexual contact with a minor.

But the ramifications of the e-mails are being felt throughout the entertainment industry's outposts here.

"He fooled everybody," one top lobbyist said. "I considered him a friend, and now I consider him a creep."

Lobbyists weren't the only ones fooled, as lawmakers who worked closely with Foley on industry issues like the runaway production tax credit also say they were hoodwinked.

"The inappropriate conduct by former Rep. Mark Foley is unacceptable and abhorrent," Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., said. "Mr. Foley's actions go against the values and responsibilities upheld by Congress. Should it be determined that he has engaged in acts which have harmed children or put them in jeopardy, he, like any other person, must be held accountable."

Foley and Bono often were seen at industry events like last month's Grammys on the Hill event sponsored by the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Bono spokesman Jason Vasquez said his boss and Foley had a working relationship because their areas of interest overlapped. Bono's late husband, Sonny Bono, held the Palm Springs, Calif., seat before he died in a skiing accident, and was the first chairman of the GOP's entertainment industry task force. Foley took over the position after Sonny Bono's death.

The task force was established as an avenue that Republicans could use to tap into the campaign cash generated from the traditionally liberal entertainment industry. It also was considered a venue the entertainment industry could use to communicate their policy problems with the Republican leadership.

"They shared overlapping issues," Vasquez said. "They tried to champion some of the same issues. They were colleagues with a good working relationship, which is something you have to have with everybody on the Hill if you ever want to get anything done."

Foley's reputation as a formidable fundraiser is backed by the numbers. He accumulated $2.8 million in cash and no debts, according to a Center for Responsive Politics examination of campaign contribution records. He raised nearly $1.5 million in the 2005-06 cycle. Having nearly $3 million in cash in a race that was considered a cakewalk is a considerable achievement. According to the CRP, he ranks No. 3 in the House for cash-in-hand.

Money earned by lawmakers who are unopposed or who are considered shoo-ins often is given to candidates in tight races, to the parties or other political entities. The CRP said Foley gave $100,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee in the summer.

Of the total Foley raised, the TV, movie and record industries had chipped in $25,500, making the entertainment industry Foley's 13th-biggest supporter. By comparison, doctors and other health care professionals were the largest, giving nearly $100,000. Real estate interests ranked third at nearly $86,000.

Foley had raised nearly $145,000 from TV, movies and recording interests since he was first elected in 1994, according to the CRP data.

While Foley was adept at raising money, Bono actually benefited more from entertainment industry largesse, raising nearly $56,000 from people in the television, studio and record industries. It is Bono's second-most important source of funds, with the broad category of the retired donating $57,490 so far in the 2005-06 cycle.

The movie, TV and music industries have given slightly more than $8.2 million in this election cycle, with 51% going to Democrats and 48% to Republicans. The center quantifies the contributions of political action committees and individuals who gave more than $200.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., tops Hollywood's list at $530,738, with Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., being the top Republican at nearly $174,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' examination of the contributions. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., raised more money from the entertainment industry than any lawmaker, taking in slightly less than $166,000.

A member leaving Congress with money left in the bank can transfer some or all of it to national, state or local political party committees like the National Republican Congressional Committee. They can donate it to candidates, within federal limits, or return the donations to contributors. Leftover money also can go to charity.

Foley could argue to the Federal Election Commission that his remaining cash should go toward his legal bills, which could be substantial as the FBI investigates whether his behavior violated any of the child exploitation laws. Officeholders can use campaign money to cover the expenses of holding office, but the connection between Foley's official duties and his behavior with former pages could be tenuous. The FEC has allowed candidates to defend themselves from legal issues that could affect their campaigns, but Foley's political career is almost certainly over.

Foley had represented the West Palm Beach district for 12 years and was seeking re-election until his sudden resignation last week. His attorney said Tuesday that his client was molested between age 13-15 by a clergyman.

"This is part of his recovery," Roth told the AP, declining to identify the clergyman or the church.

The lawyer said Foley, who is now in treatment for alcohol abuse, never had any inappropriate sexual contact with a minor. He said Foley was under the influence of alcohol when he sent many of the e-mails and instant messages.