Fossella and Fay's European Vacation
The latest New York Post report on the saga of embattled Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) caught Capitol Briefing's eye this morning. Fossella, of course, is on resignation/retirement watch after being charged with drunken driving and admitting that he has a three-year-old daughter with Laura Fay, a retired Air Force colonel who is not the lawmaker's wife.
Fossella reportedly may now face an additional investigation (though it's not clear by whom; if he resigns the House ethics committee will have no jurisdiction over him) into at least one official trip he took to France accompanied by Fay. And it's her role as a travel companion that is the subject of this morning's N.Y. Post story, which reports that a top aide to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Scott Palmer, actually complained to the Pentagon after an official trip to Europe on which Fay served as the military liaison.
"I lost confidence in her and I'm not going to kid you -- I was also concerned with this other relationship thing. It didn't look like it should," Palmer told the Post.
Two interesting points here: One is that Palmer was notoriously secretive and press-shy during his eight-year tenure as the House's most powerful staffer. His aversion to the media likely didn't help him during his most notorious brush with fame, when the scandal surrounding Mark Foley and House pages raised questions about what Palmer knew about Foley's behavior and when he knew it. In that case, Palmer was accused of NOT reporting inappropriate activities to the authorities, whereas now that he's retired, he's sharing his scandal-related memories with a New York tabloid.
The second unusual part of this story is that, to Capitol Briefing's knowledge, it is exceedingly rare for anyone to get called out for their poor work ethic on one of these official foreign trips. Yes, members and staffers usually do substantive work on these visits, and aides probably shouldn't ever goof off too visibly in front of their bosses. But at the same time, many trips do include a good deal of leisure time, allowing members and aides to drink, gamble and shop (Palmer himself was well-known for loading up on trinkets and gifts during Hastert's trips abroad). So for Palmer and the other unnamed aides quoted in the story to deem Fay's work lax enough to merit a call to the Pentagon seems pretty significant.
What were Fay and Fossella actually doing on that 2003 visit to Europe? "At the end of the trip, it became obvious that ... they were doing something more than briefing each other," according to an anonymous aide quoted by the Post. Maybe they were just shopping.
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