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Costs of Campaigning?

Former New Jersey Senate candidate James Treffinger (R) wants to use his leftover campaign funds to pay hefty legal bills resulting from a 20-count indictment against him. [IMGCAP(1)]

Treffinger, who resigned as chairman of the Essex County GOP last fall, has pleaded innocent to charges relating to his 2000 and 2002 federal campaigns. Among the charges are that Treffinger, a former Essex County executive, concocted a scheme to award county government contracts to a particular construction firm in exchange for political contributions.

He is also accused of trying to extort contributions for his 2002 campaign from a financial advisory company that did business with Essex County, and of paying Senate campaign-related services with county government funds.

Attorney Karin Riecker asked the Federal Election Commission this month for an advisory opinion confirming that Treffinger can use the $160,000 in remaining campaign funds to cover his legal fees because the “allegations against Mr. Treffinger in this case could not more squarely relate to his conduct as a candidate for federal office.”

Typically, the FEC has approved the use of campaign money for lawsuits, both civil and criminal, that relate directly to the campaign activities.

Leaving the Storm’s Center. Dan Berger, the top aide to freshman Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), is departing the Hill for the private sector. Berger, who agreed to serve as Harris’ interim chief of staff while the freshman got adjusted to Congress, is leaving to become vice president of governmental relations for America’s Community Bankers.

Replacing Berger is Ben McKay, who was chief of staff while Harris served as Florida secretary of state and in the state Senate. He is finishing graduate school and will make the transition to Harris’ D.C. office after graduation next month.

— Amy Keller and Lauren W. Whittington

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