Conflicting Accounts Leave Plot Holes in Foley Saga
Sunday, October 8, 2006
Despite countless hours of TV coverage and reams of newspaper reporting on the House's handling of the Mark Foley page scandal, numerous fundamental questions remain unanswered as the FBI and the House ethics committee begin their first full week of inquiries.
Gaps and inconsistencies in the public accounts include such basic matters as when House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his top aides first learned of concerns about Foley's relationships with male pages, and what they did about it. Also unclear is which GOP officials decided that only two members of the six-person House Page Board should confront the Florida lawmaker.
And accounts differ on whether the two board members knew the exact contents of e-mails Foley sent last year to a teenage boy in Louisiana. Those messages alarmed the boy and his parents and set into motion the events that eventually would uncover far more sexually graphic messages to other former pages, triggering Foley's abrupt resignation a week ago.
Armed with subpoena power, investigators for the FBI and the ethics committee will pursue scores of questions, almost surely including:
Who decided to keep word of the Louisiana e-mails closely held, so that only a handful of House Republicans -- and no Democrats -- knew of them?
Various accounts agree that only two people -- Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), chairman of the Page Board, and then-House Clerk Jeff Trandahl, also a board member -- confronted Foley in November 2005 about the messages. But none has definitively said who decided that only those two should handle the task.
A Sept. 30 "internal review" released by Hastert's office says that aides to Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) alerted Hastert's aides to the e-mails. Among those dealing with the matter were Hastert's deputy chief of staff, Mike Stokke, and his in-house counsel, Ted Van Der Meid.
Stokke contacted Trandahl, who then contacted Shimkus. The review says Trandahl and Shimkus "immediately met" with Foley. But it does not say who chose the meeting's participants, and why other Page Board members -- including Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Rep. Dale E. Kildee (D-Mich.) and Sergeant-at-Arms Wilson "Bill" Livingood -- were never alerted.
Some lawmakers say Capito, Kildee and Livingood might have urged queries to current and former pages, which could have turned up accounts of Foley's unusual friendliness to the youths and his sexually explicit messages to some of them. Such accounts were quietly traded among pages, former pages and some House staff members, according to recent news reports.
Did Trandahl and Shimkus know exactly what the e-mails to the Louisiana boy said?