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Rep. Dan Rostenkowski says there is nothing unusual about having friends on the payroll, explaining that in Chicago, "the people who work for us, I mean they're our friends."

But in his first interview since he was indicted on federal corruption charges, the Illinois Democrat said he didn't know whether the personal tasks the government says they did for him "actually happened while they were on the payroll.""I have a lot of people who work for me and work for the government that are my personal friends," Rostenkowski said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." "In Chicago, we have a very unusual association with the people who work for us; I mean they're our friends as well."

"My employees worked 40 hours a week when they were on the payroll," he said from Chicago. Asked whether they performed government work or personal chores, Ros-ten-kow-ski said, "Government work."

Pressed about whether they mowed his lawn, as the government alleges, an irritated Rostenkowski said: "I don't know that it actually happened while they were on the payroll."

At other points in the program, when questioned about defense strategy, his answer was, "You'll have to take that up with my lawyer."

Rostenkowski, former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, pleaded not guilty last Friday to a 17-count federal corruption indictment. House Democratic rules required him to step down as chairman.

A hearing in the case is scheduled July 8.

His lawyer, Dan Webb of Chicago, a former U.S. attorney and prosecutor in the Iran-Contra case, has said he will argue that it is unconstitutional for the executive branch to determine how Congress should spend its money.

According to the charges, Rostenkowski padded the payroll with ghost employees who performed a number of personal duties, such as taking pictures at his daughters' weddings, remodeling his Chicago home, bookkeeping for the family insurance company and mowing the lawn at his vacation home.