Retired Rep. Jim Kolbe may use campaign funds to pay for legal expenses related to his role in last year's House page scandal, the Federal Election Commission decided Thursday.

Kolbe, an Arizona Republican who retired at the end of his term last year, racked up the legal bills when the House ethics committee and the U.S. Justice Department examined his role in the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley's salacious communications with former House pages.

FEC board members voted 4-0, with no discussion during their morning meeting, to agree with staff advisers that the legal expenses resulted from Kolbe's "ordinary and necessary" duties as a congressman and thus could be paid with campaign funds. The amount of the legal bills wasn't available.

The ethics panel investigated what Kolbe knew about Foley's interaction with the pages after Kolbe revealed that a former page had once contacted him with concerns about Foley, a Florida Republican who resigned when the scandal broke. Kolbe said he told the proper authorities about the incident.

Federal law enforcement officials also opened a preliminary inquiry into a 1996 Grand Canyon rafting trip that Kolbe took with two former pages.

According to his last campaign finance report, filed in October, Kolbe had $143,586 in his campaign account.