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Mark Foley page scandal

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Mark Foley served the 16th Congressional district of Florida

Mark Adam Foley was a Republican member of the U. S. House of Representatives representing the 16th District of Florida (map) from 1995 to 2006.

First disclosure of exchanges with pages

On September 28, 2006, it was reported that a former House page (age 16) had shared with Hill staffers what he believed to be inappropriate e-mails sent to him by Foley in August 2005. The e-mails asked questions about the boy's age, what he wanted for his birthday, and what he liked to do in his spare time. Foley also requested a picture of the teenager. Foley originally claimed that he was merely being friendly and that he routinely asks for page's pictures in order to remember them when writing recommendations. [1]

In the following days details of an apparently long history of inappropriate contact with House pages came to light:

  • Former page Patrick McDonald told the The Washington Post that he knew of three or four of his ex-classmates who had received sexual messages from Foley. [2]
  • Matthew Loraditch, a page in 2001-2002 and the president of the Page Alumni Association, said a Republican congressional staffer warned him and other pages to not "get too wrapped up in [Foley] being too nice to you and all that kind of stuff." He told the Washington Post that Foley had sent "creepy" messages to three of his fellow pages, but that they were hesitant to report him because they wanted careers in politics and feared retribution — "members of Congress, they've got the power," Loraditch said. Not all pages were warned, however. ABC News contacted several pages who said they were given no such warnings about Foley. [3] [4]
  • Foley sent instant messages to an apparently underage page repeatedly trying to set up a night meeting and containing a reference to a rendezvous in San Diego. Federal law enforcement officials say the requests to meet could violate federal laws against soliciting minors for sex over the Internet. [5]
  • Other instant messenger conversations obtained by ABC News appear to show Foley engaged in online sexual conversations in the midst of a House vote and invitations from Foley to a teenage page to come to his house to drink alcohol. [6]

The age of consent in the District of Columbia is 16, but a law was passed in 2006 (prior to Foley's resignation) allowing the prosecution of ministers or other people of authority to be prosecuted for sex with those who are 17. Federal laws against the crossing of state lines or using electronic communications to entice a minor into sexual acts define a minor as anyone under the age of 18, but federal officials have said that they generally take the state age of consent into account when making federal charges. [7] Because the minimum age for U.S. congressional pages is 16, Foley may be exempt from prosecution for these crimes.


Resignation from Congress

On September 29, 2006, Foley resigned effective immediately after other pages came forward with records of sexually charged instant messages that Foley had sent to them. In a statement, Foley said, "I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent." [8] Florida Republican leaders immediately planned to meet and name a replacement to run for Foley's seat in the November 2006 elections. Florida election law, however, prevents the substitution of the new candidate for Foley on the ballot. [9]


Cover up by House Republicans

Following the resignation, it became apparent that many GOP leaders in Congress had been warned about Foley's interactions with pages for years preceding the 2006 revelations.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) was warned about Foley in 2000

Following Foley's resignation, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) acknowledged that a former congressional page approached him “as long as six years ago (2000)” to report feeling uncomfortable by messages sent from Foley. A spokeswoman for Kolbe added that the congressman could not remember whether he confronted Foley directly or simply delegated the matter to his staff. When asked directly about his actions, Kolbe stated, “We’ll have a statement on that. We’ll have a statement on that.” [10]

On October 10, Kolbe released a statement which declared, "Some time after leaving the Page program, an individual I had appointed as a Page contacted my office to say he had received e-mails from Rep. Foley that made him uncomfortable. I was not shown the content of the messages and was not told they were sexually explicit. It was my recommendation that this complaint be passed along to Rep. Foley's office and the Clerk who supervised the Page program. This was done promptly. I did not have a personal conversation with Mr. Foley about the matter. I assume e-mail contact ceased since the former Page never raised the issue again with my office. I believed then, and believe now, that this was the appropriate way to handle this incident given the information I had and the fact that the young man was no longer a Page and not subject to the jurisdiction of the program." [11]

Kolbe was immediately criticized for his apparent failure to notify the Republican leadership about the concerns surrounding Foley. David Smith, president of the Human Rights Campaign, noted that if Kolbe did not take steps to alert others, then he is “just as culpable as the Republican leadership in failing to protect pages.” [12] GOP Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) also criticized Kolbe, stating “The pipeline should be straight to the leadership, even for this abhorrent type of situation.” [13]

The Clerk of the House, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and the office of Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) were warned about Foley in fall 2005

Emails forwarded from the House page to Rep. Alexander's staff. Page 1 Page 2
Page 3 Page 4
Page 5 Page 6
Page 7 Page 8

Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) was the sponsor of the then-sixteen year old page whose emails from Foley sparked the controversy. [14] Shimkus, Alexander and Jeff Trandahl, the Clerk of the House appointed by Hastert in 1999, clearly had some degree of knowledge about Foley's emails with the page. Hastert, however, has admitted that his office knew of the matter but in the early days of the scandal denied that he was personally informed about it until late 2006, a position he later backed away from (see below for details).

Over August 30-31, 2005, the page forwarded the emails from Foley to a staffer in Alexander's office, adding that the "sick" emails "freaked me out." This was confirmed by copies of the emails released by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and by statements by Alexander on September 29, 2006, the day of Foley's resignation. [15] (See emails at right.)

Alexander also stated on September 29th that he learned of the matter from a reporter after his staffer had, in late October or November of 2005. He said he then called the page's parents, who told him they wanted to keep the matter quiet. [16] According to a timeline of events released by Speaker Dennis Hastert's office, staffers for Alexander then contacted Rep. John Shimkus, then-House Clerk Tim Trandahal[17] and staffers in Hastert's office.

Timeline released by Hastert's office of fall 2005 actions in Foley scandal

The following is a summary of the timeline released by Hastert's office on September 30, 2006, the day after Foley's resignation:

  • Alexander's office contacted Hastert's office: In the "fall of 2005," Alexander's Chief of Staff informed Tim Kennedy, a staff assistant for Hastert, that he possessed an email exchange between Foley and a former House page that he and Alexander "were concerned about." Alexander's staffer did not reveal the specific content of the emails.
  • Hastert's staffers confered with Alexander's staffer and the Clerk of the House: Kennedy reported the matter to Mike Stokke, Hastert's Deputy Chief of Staff. Stokke directed Kennedy to Ted Van Der Meid, Hastert's in-house Counsel, who told him to contact the Clerk of the House. Stokke then met with Alexander's Chief of Staff and the Clerk of the House. Alexander's Chief of Staff declined a request by the Clerk to see the email, saying that the family wanted to "maintain as much privacy as possible and simply wanted the contact to stop." He said the email was not of a "sexual nature" but did say it was "over-friendly."
  • The Clerk of the House met with Rep. John Shimkus: The Clerk then met with Rep. Shimkus, who was the Chair of the Page Board, and informed Van der Meid that he was taking action.
  • The Clerk and Shimkus confronted Foley: The Clerk and Rep. Shimkus met with Foley and asked him about the email. They then "made it clear that to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and at the request of the parents, Congressman Foley was to immediately cease any communication with the young man." The Clerk then informed Van Der Meid of his actions.

The timeline also stated:

"Mindful of the sensitivity to the parent’s wishes to protect their child’s privacy and believing that they had promptly reported what they knew to the proper authorities Kennedy, Van Der Meid and Stokke did not discuss the matter with others in the Speaker’s Office... No one in the Speaker’s Office was made aware of the sexually explicit text messages which press reports suggest had been directed to another individual until they were revealed in the press and on the internet this week. In fact, no one was ever made aware of any sexually explicit email or text messages at any time." [18]

Democrats were not informed of 2005 intervention

Neither the Hastert-appointed Clerk nor any of the House Republicans involved in the intervention informed Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), the lone Democrat on the Page Committee, or any other House Democrat, about the matter. [19]

Reps. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) and John Boehner (R-Ohio) were warned about Foley in early 2006

In statements the day of Foley's resignation, Rep. Rodney Alexander said he first learned of Foley's emails to the Louisiana page in late October or November of 2005. He also stated that he then informed Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). [20] The NRCC is the party organization responsible for electing and reelecting Republicans to the House of Reprensentatives.

In later statements to reporters, Reynolds stated that he was informed of the Foley matter in the spring of 2006. [21] It is unclear why Alexander waited four to six months to inform Reynolds. Reynolds released a statement on September 30, 2006 stating that he had then informed Hastert of the issue:

"Rodney Alexander brought to my attention the existence of e-mails between Mark Foley and a former page of Mr. Alexander's. Despite the fact that I had not seen the e-mails in question, and Mr. Alexander told me that the parents didn't want the matter pursued, I told the Speaker of the conversation Mr. Alexander had with me. Mr. Alexander has also said he took the matter to the Clerk of the House. An investigation was then conducted by the Clerk and John Shimkus on behalf of the House Page Board." [22]

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told the Washington Post on September 29, 2006 that he had first learned of the inappropriate contact between Foley and the page in the spring of 2006. He said he then contacted Hastert, who appeared to already know about the matter. Boehner then contacted the Post hours later to partially retract his statement and say that he could not remember whether or not he had spoken with Hastert. [23]

Kirk Fordham

Kirk Fordham was Foley's chief of staff from 1995 until January 2004. He then went to work on the 2004 Senate campaign of Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and then became chief of staff for New York Republican Representative and National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Reynolds. He resigned from Reynolds' staff on October 3, 2006. [24]

Fordham, who had remained close friends with Foley and his sister after he left Foley's staff, was intimately involved in the early Republican efforts to manage the media coverage of the scandal. When ABC News reporter Brian Ross first contacted Foley with the instant messages on September 29, Fordham called him back and offered an exclusive on Foley's resignation in exchange for the supression of the messages, which Ross refused to do. When Fordham resigned from Reynolds' staff on October 4th, he said that he was acting as Foley's friend and not in any official capacity, stating, "I will not allow the Democrats to make me a political issue in my boss's race, and I will fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation." [25] However, that same day Fordham stated that, while Foley's chief of staff, he had repeatedly asked Hastert's staff to put a stop to Foley's inappropriate relations with House pages:

"The fact is, even prior to the existence of the Foley e-mail exchanges, I had more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest levels of the House of Representatives, asking them to intervene when I was informed of Mr. Foley's inappropriate behavior." [26]

Specifically, according to a "knowledgeable source familiar with Fordham's account," Fordham claims to have been warned "on two or three occasions" about Foley's "overly friendly" behavior with young male pages from Jeff Trandahl, then the Clerk of the House and overseer of the page program. On one occasion, sometime in 2002 or 2003, Trandahl told Fordham that Foley visited the page dormitory and "appeared intoxicated." Following the incident, Fordham claims to have informed Scott Palmer, Speaker Hastert's chief of staff, about Foley's behavior. Fordham did not tell Palmer about Foley's attempt to enter the pages' dormitory, but rather that he was generally concerned about his excessive friendliness to the pages. Several days later, the source notes that Palmer informed Fordham that he "dealt with it" by talking to Foley and that he "informed the Speaker." [27] [28] Fordham's lawyer, Timothy Heaphy, declined to confirm that Palmer told his client that he had spoken to Hastert about Foley, citing the ongoing investigations. [29]

Republican leadership challenged the validity of Fordham's account. Palmer noted that, "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen." [30] Leadership staff also intimated that in 2005, Fordham had actively persuaded the leadership staff to keep the Foley issue secret from the Page Board and inform only board chairman Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). [31]

Fordham, who had said, "at no point ever did I ask anyone to block any inquiries," [32] categorically denied the allegations:

"Rather than trying to shift the blame on me, those who are employed by these House leaders should acknowledge what they know about their action or inaction in response to the information they knew about Mr. Foley prior to 2005." [33]

Meanwhile, Trandahl's attorney released a statement on October 10 which read, "Jeff Trandahl will cooperate fully with the FBI and the House ethics committee investigations. At this time, Mr. Trandahl will not be airing his recollections with the media." [34]

On October 12, Fordham appeared before the Ethics Committee for several hours. He repeated under oath his account of having explicitly warned Speaker Hastert’s office (specifically Palmer) at least three years ago that Foley should be told to keep his distance from congressional pages. Also on this date, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) testified before the committee. Following the testimony, she stated, “I’m a member of the page board who was not informed of the e-mail messages that were sent. I want the investigation to go forth quickly and reach a conclusion.” [35]

Responses from Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)

The statements by Reynolds, Alexander and Boehner contradicted Hastert's earlier claim that he only learned about the issue of Foley and the page the week before. After being confronted with Reynold's statement, Hastert reversed his position and stated that he may have been informed of the issue but did not specifically recall the conversation. He also stated that while he may have known about the emails, he had no knowledge until recently about the more explicit instant messenger conversations. His office also confirmed that Hastert's top aides, at least, had known since 2005 that Foley had been ordered to treat pages respectively and to cut off contact with the one he had been emailing. The Washington Post reported that "Republican insiders" said that Reynolds issued the statement out of anger that Hastert was apparently willing to let him take the blame for the lack of action by the House Republican leadership. The Post reported that a Republican leadership aide told them, "This is what happens when one member tries to throw another member under a bus." [36]

Hastert also denied that his staff ever informed him of the concerns raised by Rep. Rodney Alexander. [37]

On October 10, 2006, Hastert defended his staff, stating "I don’t think anybody in my office at any time did anything wrong...(but) if anybody is found to have hidden information or covered up information, they really should be gone." [38]

Democratic response

Democrats sharply criticized GOP leaders for failing to properly address the matter sooner and involve them in the process. Doing so, Democrats argued, may have led to an inquiry which would have uncovered the more sexually-explicit instant messages which were supposedly unknown at the time to the House leadership. This negligence, Democrats argued, was augmented by the fact that Foley was permitted to remain as co-chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. Democrats were joined in their criticism by some Republicans. Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) stated that any member of the GOP leadership who knew of the emails and took no action should resign. [39] [40]

On October 4, 2006, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement calling for Hastert and the rest of the Republican leadership to be "immediately questioned under oath... The children, their parents, the public, and our colleagues deserve answers and those who covered up Mark Foley's behavior must be held accountable." [41]


Post-resignation PR by House Republicans

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) held a press conference on October 2, 2006 in Amherst, Massachusetts to defend his actions in the Foley scandal. Reynolds had gathered about 30 children around him for the conference and refused to ask his "supporters" to leave when a reporter suggested that it was inappropriate to discuss the matter in front of them. Foley defended the money the NRCC accepted from Foley, saying that he had raied it in an honest fashion. He also defended his actions in the scandal, saying that he did what anyone should do when they here something about a co-worker by reporting to his "boss," in this case House Speaker Dennis Hastert. [42]


Criticism of Hastert and leadership by House Republicans

  • Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the Republican House Majority Whip, said on October 4, "I think I could have given some good advice here, which is, You have to be curious, you have to ask all the questions you can think of... You absolutely can't decide not to look into activities because one individual's parents don't want you to." [43] Blunt, who had been named interim House Majority Leader after Rep. Tom DeLay resigned in September 2005 under a Texas felony indictment, lost a caucus election for the permanent post to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) in February 2006.
  • Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.) said he was "disgusted" with the leadership's actions. "That's abnormal for a 52-year-old-man having those kinds of e-mails going to a 16-year-old-child," he said, "This thing should have been looked into months ago." [44]
  • Rep. Ron Lewis cancelled an invitation for Hastert to appear at a fundraiser and hedged his support for the speaker, saying, "I'm taking the speaker's words at face value," Lewis told the AP. "I have no reason to doubt him. But until this is cleared up, I want to know the facts. If anyone in our leadership has done anything wrong, then I will be the first in line to condemn it." [45]
  • Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) called for a change in leadership, saying "If they knew or should have known the extent of this problem, they should not serve in leadership." [46]

FBI failed to investigate Foley in mid-2006

The FBI acknowledged on October 2, 2006 that it had received copies of the emails that sparked the Foley controversy in July 2006, but did not open an investigation because they "did not rise to the level of criminal activity". The emails were sent from Foley to a Lousiana teenage page in 2005. The page and his parents became distrubed when Foley requested a picture of the page. The left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington received copies of the emails on July 21, 2006 and forwarded them to the FBI the same day. [47]


Post-resignation investigations into Foley

House page board investigation

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) responded to Foley's resignation by asking the chairman of the House's page board, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), to investigate the page system. He stated, "We want to make sure that all our pages are safe and the page system is safe." With regards to Foley's actions, he continued, "None of us are very happy about it." [48]

Investigation into Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.)

On October 13, federal prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation of a camping trip that Kolbe took in 1996 with two teenage congressional pages. [49]

House clerk investigation

On October 4, 2006, Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio)—the fourth-ranking member of the Republican leadership as chair of the House Republican Conference—asked the Clerk of the House to investigate concerns voiced by House Republicans on a conference call:

"A member stated that there are rumors that there was an incident within the past several years when then-Congressman Foley in an intoxicated state was stopped by the Capitol Police from entering the Page Residence Hall... [another member said] the Director of the Republican Pages brought specific concerns about... Foley's behavior to the attention of the then-Clerk of the House. While the details of these rumors are vague, they are very serious allegations." [50]

Ethics committee investigation

At Pelosi's (D-Calif.) urging, the House voted unanimously the night of the resignation, September 29, to direct the House Ethics Committee to begin an investigation into Foley's behavior. [51] The committee is investigating how earlier complaints were handled by House members, staffers and officers. The actions of Hastert's office was a specific target of the investigation. [52]

On October 12, Kirk Fordham appeared before the Ethics Committee, repeating under oath his account of having explicitly warned Speaker Hastert’s office (specifically Palmer) as late as 2003 that Foley should be told to keep his distance from congressional pages. Also on this date, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) testified before the committee. Following the testimony, she stated, “I’m a member of the page board who was not informed of the e-mail messages that were sent. I want the investigation to go forth quickly and reach a conclusion.” [53]

On October 13, Shimkus testified before the House Ethics Committee for more than three hours. Following the testimony, he stated "I think there's stuff that everybody would have done differently." He added that he failed to tell the other members of the page committee about the emails out of respect for the wishes of the boy's parents, who wished for the matter to remain private. [54]

On October 16, Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), a member of the Page Committee who was never informed of the Foley emails, met with the Ethics Committee for several hours. In the meeting, he discussed allegations that a second congressperson may too have had past encounters with congressional pages. He declined to discuss details, and stressed that "It's only been allegations made." Nevertheless, he also indicated that the page board had discussed the matter with the second lawmaker. [55]

On October 19, former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl testified before the Ethics Committee that he repeatedly issued warnings about Foley's behavior years before GOP leaders said they were aware of his conduct with pages. A source close to Trandahl noted that the former clerk took his concerns to Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, on several occasions. Fordham previously testified that he warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) chief of staff, Scott Palmer, about Foley no later than 2003. Palmer has denied the allegation. [56]

Also on October 19, Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) informed both the Page Board and the Ethics Committee that a former page or intern may have been the subject of inappropriate attention from another lawmaker. Weller refused to reveal the identity of the page or intern, the timing, or the identity of the lawmaker. He did, however, stress that he was confident that he or she was "inappropriately invited to a social function by another congressman." [57]

On October 23, the Ethics Committee heard testimony from Scott Palmer, Speaker Hastert’s chief of staff, and Sally Vastola, the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Prior to testifying, Palmer adamantly denied allegations by Fordham that he had been told of Foley's behavior as early as 2003. [58]

Department of Justice investigation

Hastert wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on October 1 requesting an investigation into who knew of the messages and failed to contact the proper authorities. The FBI also announced that it will be investigating Foley's behavior. [59]

On October 4, 2006, the Department of Justice sent a "preservation letter" to the House counsel ordering the House to preserve all documents and other materials possibly related to Foley's electronic correspondence with House pages. FBI agents and the Department of Justice also began searching the country for other pages that may have had contact with Foley. Officials indicated that the investigation thus far was into whether Foley had violated laws against crossing state lines or using electronic communications to entice a minor into sexual acts, but other charges were being pursued as well. [60] The preservation letter may have been used by the Department of Justice instead of a surprise raid in order to avoid the Congressional outcry that followed a raid on the offices of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) in May 2006. [61]

Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation

Also on October 4, 2006, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed that it had begun a preliminary inquiry into the affair. [62] On November 16, 2006, it announced that it had opened a full criminal investigation. [63]


NRCC would accept Foley's money

Upon his resignation, Foley had $2.7 million in campaign funds. Carl Forti, the communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said on October 1 that the committee would gladly accept Foley’s money to put towards other House races. Foley previously gave $100,000 to the committee in July 2006 as part of the party’s Battleground Program, to which members were asked to contribute. [64]


Legal defense

In mid-July 2007, it was revealed that Foley spent $300,000 in legal fees in the second quarter of 2007, according to his Federal Elections Commission filings. The fees, incurred in the first three months of 2007, were paid to the Florida-based law firm Zuckerman Spaeder. "Despite the legal fees, Foley’s campaign committee has maintained a healthy war chest of $1,458,275 cash on hand."[1]


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