An earlier version of this Dec. 9 article on a House ethics committee report incorrectly stated that an aide to Rep. Jim Kolbe told the committee that Kolbe knew of the sexually explicit nature of an instant message sent by former representative Mark Foley to a former page. The article should have said that the former page revealed the explicit nature of the message to the ethics committee. Kolbe told the committee the former page either called him or his assistant, and that he did not see the Foley message and was unaware it was explicit. Also, a caption accompanying a photograph with the article reversed the order of the two men pictured. Ethics committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) was at left, and ranking committee Democrat Howard L. Berman (Calif.) was at right.
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Committee Says GOP Left Foley Unchecked
Hastert issued a statement late yesterday stressing that the investigation had uncovered no evidence that any House member, officer or employee, or any member of the media, knew of the overtly sexual instant messages that led to Foley's sudden resignation.
Much about Foley's courting of male pages has been made public, but the committee's report breaks new ground. As far back as 1995, the year Foley took office as part of the Republican takeover, Jeff Trandahl, then assistant clerk of the House, saw Foley as a nuisance for lavishing inordinate attention on pages. Trandahl, who would be elected clerk in 1999, testified that he thought of Kolbe, an openly gay House Republican who is retiring this year, the same way.
Peggy Sampson, the Republicans' chief page supervisor, said Foley's behavior gave her a "creepy feeling" for years. Evidence emerged that on two separate occasions, Foley went to the page dormitory late at night. In the first incident, before 2000, he was suspected of being intoxicated and was turned away by Capitol Police. In another incident, in June 2000, he reportedly appeared in his convertible during the pages' end-of-semester "all-night party" and sped off with at least two pages before supervising staff could react.
Perhaps the biggest revelations involved Kolbe. The Washington Post reported in October that one of his former pages had received a sexually explicit instant message from Foley, which the former page had shown to Kolbe as long ago as 2000. After the story appeared, Kolbe said that the contact was with his staff, not him, that he did not see it and that he was unaware it was explicit.
Kolbe's assistant, Patrick Baugh, told the committee that the former page had contacted Kolbe directly. The former page revealed the explicit nature of the message to the committee.
Moreover, after the Foley matter exploded in the media, the former page contacted Kolbe again to ask whether he should divulge the instant message. He testified that Kolbe responded: "It is best that you don't even bring this up with anybody. . . . There is no good that can come from it if you actually talk about this."
In a statement, Kolbe said, "The report demonstrates that members of my office and I took prompt action in 2001 to address the complaint," by a college student from his district who had previously served as a House page. "I did not review a copy of the communication Congressman Foley sent . . . and I never knew whether or not it was sexually explicit," Kolbe said. "The simple fact that Foley had made the student feel uncomfortable was enough for me to take action by, among other things, notifying the Clerk of the House."
Another incident was also brought to light in the report. After the Foley matter became public on Sept. 29, The Post quoted Boehner saying that he had told Hastert that spring of concerns about Foley and that Hastert had said the matter was being taken care of. When the story appeared on The Post's Web site that night, Palmer, Hastert's chief of staff, contacted Boehner's chief of staff to discuss what the report called "the perceived inconsistency" between Boehner's story and Hastert's statement denying all knowledge of the concerns.
That led to a late-night strategy session of House GOP leaders in Boehner's office, which some members at the time feared was inappropriate because the case had been referred to the ethics committee.
Democrats receive their share of scrutiny in the report. In August 2005, a former page of Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) sent Alexander aide Danielle Savoy e-mails he had received from Foley asking him for a picture and asking what he wanted for his birthday. Savoy passed them on to a friend, who showed them to her boyfriend, Justin Field, who worked for the House Democratic Caucus.
Democratic Caucus communications director Matt Miller saw the e-mails as inappropriate, but rather than taking them to authorities, he shopped them to the press, first to the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times that November, then to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. He also gave the e-mails to the communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a point apparently validating Republican charges that senior Democrats were behind the revelation of Foley's conduct.
On the central question of Hastert's involvement, the committee firmly sided with Trandahl and former Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham, who testified that they brought Foley's behavior to the attention of Palmer and of Hastert counsel Van Der Meid years ago. Fordham also testified that Palmer assured him he had brought the issue directly to the speaker in late 2002 or early 2003.
Trandahl said Palmer had told him: "I've talked to Kirk Fordham. I understand the problem. I'm on it." He said he remembered it "vividly."
Palmer testified repeatedly that he remembered no such meeting, and Hastert said he did not remember learning anything of the Foley matter.
But the committee found "the weight of the evidence supports" Fordham and Trandahl. Moreover, "the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that Speaker Hastert was told, at least in passing, about the e-mails" by Boehner and Reynolds in spring 2006.
Staff writer Elizabeth Williamson contributed to this report.