Former U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook has been out of Congress for nearly two years now, but he’s still paying legal fees for problems connected to his campaign and a former staff member in his House office.
Istook paid $4,000 to an Oklahoma City law firm in July for representing him in regard to the federal case against his former chief of staff, John Albaugh, who pleaded guilty in June to “honest services” fraud for taking concert tickets and meals from a lobbyist in exchange for money for road projects.
The payment was made out of leftover campaign funds and reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week.
Istook has acknowledged being questioned by the FBI in connection with the Albaugh case _ which grew out of the Jack Abramoff scandal _ but has said he is not a target of the investigation.
In an e-mail response to a question today, Istook said, “Because of John Albaugh’s activities, I sought legal advice. That is absolutely proper use (of campaign money) under FEC standards, since it involved congressional and campaign issues.”
The campaign issues that are part of the Albaugh matter: Albaugh arranged for campaign fundraisers for Istook using Abramoff’s leased suites at FedEx Field, where the Washington Redskins play, and the Verizon Center, a sports and entertainment venue in downtown DC.
In the same time period of those fundraisers, the 2003-04 election cycle, Istook’s campaign committed numerous violations, according to an FEC audit. Istook has paid $14,000, mostly from leftover campaign funds but some out of pocket, in fines and reimbursements to the FEC.
His latest campaign report shows he paid $2,000 in July to the DC law firm that has been handling his case before the FEC. The FEC has not publicly deemed that case officially closed.
Istook served in Congress from 1993 through 2006. He ran for governor in 2006 but was defeated by Gov. Brad Henry.