Revisiting Fossella's Illegal Activities
Back on August 13th, the NY Daily News ran a follow up on Rep. Vito Fossella's illegal/inappropriate usage of tax payer created photographs in campaign materials.
U.S. Rep. Vito Fossella has a new explanation for why his photos with constituents - and Elmo from "Sesame Street" - were improperly used in congressional mailings and campaign literature.
Although the photos used in both instances appear to be exactly the same, the Staten Island Republican now says they are actually different snapshots.
Fossella's campaign responded claiming that identical photographs used in both tax payer funded Congressional mailings and in re-election campaign literature in reality are two different photographs taken seconds apart. In an attempt to legitimize his claims he submitted a report by Ronald Sartini a susposive photography expert from Brooklyn. The campaign refused to acknowledge if Sartini was paid for his report or if he was paid did that money come from his Congressional accounts or his re-election campaign coffers.
Fossella made his unusual claim in response to an investigation being conducted by the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, which is looking into possible violation of rules that prohibit a member of Congress from using his office to benefit his reelection campaign.
Essentially Fossella claims that one of his staff members, Craig Donner, took several photographs seconds apart. Mr. Donnor claimed to have used his own (not a campaign owned) Sony DSC-P100 camera.
Greg Smith, the reporter covering this story seems to embarass Fossella's flimsy string of excuses in just one sentence;
But Donner did not respond to written questions about how he was able to take campaign and congressional photos within seconds of each other without violating the rule barring staffers from doing campaign work.
Let's just be clear about what happened here. Rep. Vito Fossella's campaign potentially acted illegally in using tax payer funded photography in both his official and re-election communications. Further he did act illegally in allowing his paid Congressional staffer to violate these rules by working simulaneously on both campaigns, while being a tax payer paid Congressional staffer.
Personally I find it ridiculous that an elected member of Congress is reduced to this kind of avoidance and lack of accountability. If he wants to clear up this issue in an acceptable manner that does not include covering his ears and saying la, la, la, la when these accusations arise, he can turn over the memory stick from his staffers Sony camera. Doing so would address four indisputable issues, as you can see in two sample screen shots I uploaded from my own camera and iphoto:
1. the file names of the two differing photos used in each instance
2. the shutter speed of the camera to show that they it was possible to take identical photos seconds apart
3. the camera name which will show it was in fact a Sony DSC-P100
4. the exact time down to the second each photo was taken (image 2)
[note there is an hour difference on my camera setting, however the dates are the same and the time is essentially the same with exception to the hour differntial]
These are simple and quick solutions to this potential illegal activity by a sitting member of Congress. He can clear up at least part of the issue, the potentially illegal use of the same photograph in Congressional mailings and campaign election mailings. But should he avoid it, like many other things (debates!) he has not escaped the fact that his campaign broke the law by allowing a Congressional staffer to be working on his re-election campaign while being paid by tax dollars in his Congressional staff role.