By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006
The Democratic opponent of Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) is calling for an investigation into an e-mail exchange that Foley conducted last year with a 16-year-old boy who had worked as a congressional page.
Foley, 52, has served in the House for six terms and is seeking reelection. He said that the five e-mails he wrote to the boy were harmless and that their publication is part of an attempt by Democrats to smear him.
"The e-mails in question were a response to a handwritten thank-you letter from a former page," said Jason Kello, Foley's spokesman. "There have not been any allegations made by anyone except by Tim Mahoney and the Democrats who are attempting to misrepresent a series of innocent communications to prop up a failing political campaign."
Jessica Santillo, a spokeswoman for Mahoney, a Venus, Fla., rancher and business executive who is running against Foley, said in a written statement: "This is a matter for the appropriate authorities to investigate."
In the brief but chatty e-mails, which were first reported by ABC News, Foley asked how old the boy was, inquired what he wanted for his birthday, requested a picture of the young man and told him that he had just finished a long bike ride and was going to the gym.
According to ABC, the boy forwarded the e-mail that requested his picture to an unidentified congressional staffer and wrote that the e-mail was "sick sick sick sick sick." In another e-mail to a staffer, ABC reported, the boy wrote: "Maybe it is just me being paranoid, but seriously. This freaked me out."
Kello, the Foley spokesman, declined to identify the boy.
Kello said that around the time the boy was leaving his job as a page, or House floor assistant, in the summer of 2005, the boy handed Foley a card "thanking him for being a friendly face." The boy then returned to his home in Louisiana.
Foley kept in touch with him, especially around the time of Hurricane Katrina. "He was concerned about the kid because he knew he was from Louisiana," Kello said.
The e-mail, which ended "send me a pic of you as well," began, "How are you weathering the hurricane . . . are you safe." Kello said Foley asked what the boy wanted for his birthday because in a previous e-mail, a copy of which has not been published, the boy had informed the congressman that he was celebrating a birthday.
Kello also said that it is not unusual for someone from Foley's office to seek photographs to keep on file in case people seek recommendations.
Foley was familiar and friendly in his e-mails. In one, he wrote, "did you have fun at your conference" and "what stuff do you like to do." In another, he wrote, "Glad your home safe and sound" and "its nice here . . . been raining today." In a third, Foley referred to someone named Will and said, "hes such a nice guy . . . acts much older than his age . . . and hes in really great shape."