Earlier versions of this story, including in the print edition of Friday's Washington Post, incorrectly said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer contacted Rep. Eric Massa's deputy chief of staff about alleged misconduct by Massa. The deputy chief of staff was contacted by Hoyer's staff.
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Republicans are urging new investigation of former congressman Massa
But Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the aide, the speaker's director of member services, thought the matter was being handled properly when Racalto said he planned to tell Massa that he had to move out of the townhouse because his living there did not appear "congressional."
"There's nothing in the conversation that rose to the level of an allegation that he thought he had to act on," Daly said. "Therefore, he didn't believe it was necessary to do anything. He believed the chief of staff was going to ask Representative Massa to move out of the house, and he agreed that that was the right thing to do."
Hoyer learned Feb. 9 of allegations that Massa had groped staffers, according to four sources familiar with the discussion, a day after his staff was alerted to them. During a blizzard that paralyzed Washington, Hoyer's staff contacted Massa's deputy chief of staff Feb. 10 to demand that the allegations be reported to the House ethics committee or he would report them himself.
In an interview Thursday, Frank (D-Mass.) confirmed that his chief of staff had called Racalto "in an excess of caution" to alert him that Massa had taken one of Frank's junior staffers out to dinner. "Joe said that he already knew about the situation and was considering how to address it," he said.
Frank said that his chief of staff wanted Massa's office to understand the perception it created but that the junior employee reported nothing improper and there was no indication the dinner was part of a pattern.
"When someone is seen with someone much younger in a staff position, people will understandably raise questions. If it had been a young woman, it would be the same problem," Frank said. "She said, 'You know, Joe, people talk in this town. Your boss was out with a young man last night.' " Frank said he didn't know about the conversation until it was reported Wednesday evening.
Series of scandals
The Massa controversy is the latest in a series of scandals that Republicans have used to make the case that Democrats are plagued by broad corruption problems worthy of punishment at the ballot box in November.
Two other New York Democrats -- Rep. Charles B. Rangel, who vacated his committee chairmanship, and Gov. David A. Paterson, who abandoned his reelection effort -- have provided damaging headlines in recent weeks. The Massa scandal -- and the potential implication of Hoyer, Pelosi and their aides -- gives Republicans the chance to argue that Democrats have betrayed the promises they made to clean up the House when they took control of the chamber in 2006.
Democrats, for their part, say the House GOP's record of scandals far outstrips those plaguing the majority. "John Boehner is all too ready to cast stones from glass houses -- even though he was part of and a leader of one of the most corrupt Congresses in history," said Hari Sevugan, the Democratic National Committee spokesman.
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.