Friday, November 3, 2006
The House ethics committee has been working hard to determine whether Republicans covered up Mark Foley's electronic messages to male former pages, but even 12-hour workdays will not bring conclusions by Election Day.
The lack of a report by Tuesday leaves voters to sort through conflicting Republican accounts in deciding whether GOP leaders did not protect the teenage pages.
Foley, who represented Florida in the House, was accused of being overly friendly with male pages when they served on Capitol Hill. After they returned home, he sent some of them inappropriate e-mails and lurid instant messages.
It won't be easy for voters to find answers without the panel's help.
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's staff could have learned of inappropriate e-mails as early as 2002 and as late as 2005, depending on whose statements voters believe. The instant messages did not surface until five weeks ago.
Also, two House leaders said they told Hastert (R-Ill.) about Foley's questionable e-mails this spring, but the speaker said he did not learn of them until late September.
A four-member investigative subcommittee interviewed about two dozen witnesses in closed sessions. Witnesses were still being questioned earlier this week.
Foley resigned Sept. 29 and entered alcohol treatment after lurid messages were made public.
Although the Iraq war has dominated newscasts, headlines and talk shows, recent polls indicate that many voters also consider the Foley issue important. A majority say they think Republican leaders were involved in a coverup.
Academic experts said the Foley scandal was never a more important issue than Iraq, even when it dominated the headlines. Nonetheless, they said, Republican campaigns were hurt.