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Saturday, September 30, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

The question is now going to be “who knew what and when did they know it?” in terms of House leadership and Foley’s behavior.

The key issue is whether we are talking about leadership knowing about an e-mail that could be explained away or if they knew about pornographic IMs (or had other information). If all leadership knew about was the one e-mail, then calls for resignations and such are premature. If they knew about the IMs, then I will join the call.

Via WaPo (Rep. Foley Quits In Page Scandal) we find:

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate “contact” between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.

It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged online exchanges between Foley and the boy.

Roll Call notes:

At least four Republican House Members, one senior GOP aide and a former top officer of the House were aware of the allegations about Foley that prompted the initial reporting regarding his e-mail contacts with a 16-year-old House page. They include: Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), as well as a senior aide to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl.

Boehner strongly denied media reports late Friday night that he had informed Hastert of the allegations, saying “That is not true.”

Reynolds refused to comment.

Shimkus, who chairs the page board, and Trandahl, who administered the program, met with Foley in 2005 after learning of Foley’s e-mail exchange with the former page by Alexander. Shimkus released a detailed statement Friday night.

House sources said that Foley denied any improper sexual activity when confronted by Shimkus and Trandahl. Their information only included some August 2005 e-mails that contained no references to sex or other improper behavior, and not the other messages that have been reported by ABC News.

According to a senior House GOP leadership aide, Hastert’s office was informed of the interview shortly after it occurred, but Hastert himself was not told.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), who serves on the page board, was never told of the interview with Foley.

The fact that no Democrats were informed makes one wonder–although I am not sure what constitutes normal actions in these types of situations.

If the statement by John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Chair of the Page Board is an accurate reflection of what leadership knew, then the leadership angle may prove to be nothing. From Shimkus’ statement:

“As chairman of the bipartisan House Page Board in late 2005, I was notified by the then Clerk of the House, who manages the Page Program, that he had been told by Congressman Rodney Alexander about an email exchange between Congressman Foley and a former House Page. I took immediate action to investigate the matter.

“In that email exchange, Congressman Foley asked about the former Page’s well-being after Hurricane Katrina and requested a photograph. When asked about the email exchange, Congressman Foley said he expressed concern about the Page’s well-being and wanted a photo to see that the former Page was alright.<[> “Congressman Foley told the Clerk and me that he was simply acting as a mentor to this former House Page and that nothing inappropriate had occurred. Nevertheless, we ordered Congressman Foley to cease all contact with this former House Page to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. We also advised him to be especially mindful of his conduct with respect to current and former House Pages, and he assured us he would do so. I received no subsequent complaints about his behavior nor was I ever made aware of any additional emails.

“It has become clear to me today, based on information I only now have learned, that Congressman Foley was not honest about his conduct.

It is clear that they knew his behavior was questionable. Via CNN (Colleague: We told Foley to stop contacting teen):

The lawmaker who oversees the page program, Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, said that he had learned about of Foley’s e-mails in late 2005 and “took immediate action to investigate the matter.”

He was notified by Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Republican from Louisiana, in whose office the page had worked. Alexander forwarded the e-mails to the clerk of the House.

“We ordered Congressman Foley to cease all contact with this former House page to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” Shimkus said in a statement Friday.

“It has become clear to me today, based on information I only now have learned, that Congressman Foley was not honest about his conduct.”

[...]

Shimkus recalled that when he initially questioned Foley about the e-mails, the congressman assured him that he was “simply acting as a mentor” and that “nothing inappropriate had occurred.”

Foley said he was e-mailing to find out if the teenager was OK after Hurricane Katrina and “wanted a photo to see that the former page was all right,” Shimkus said.

Foley was ordered to have no further contact with the former page and advised “to be especially mindful of his conduct,” Shimkus said.

“And he assured us he would do so,” Shimkus’ statement added. “I received no subsequent complaints about his behavior nor was I ever made aware of any additional e-mails.”

If all they knew about was the e-mail, I can understand the lack of action, as in the absence of any other information it could be explained away. Still, I have to wonder if, indeed, that was all that was known or suspected.

The whole thing is an utter mess, to be sure.

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5 Responses to “Foley Scandal May Have Wider Implications for Elections”

  1. SoloD Says:

    This is obviously easier in hindsight, but when you read the first batch of emails didn’t you get a slightly icky feeling that made you pretty sure that there wasn’t an innocent explanation.

    Given that, and given Foley has a seat that would be considered competitve in an open election, you have to wonder if political considerations didn’t come into play. (As well as the “protect our guy” syndrome.)

    Clear answers need to be given, or heads should roll. Pages should not need to be protected from Members of Congress!

  2. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    I concur.

  3. hilzoy Says:

    I have a slightly different take, based in part on having once been in a position (only woman in relevant bit of organization) to get reports of sexual harassment. It was clear to me that it would be wrong to assume there was something to each of these allegations, of course, but it was equally clear that I had to check them out, at least informally: ask around, see whether there seemed to be a real problem, etc.

    In this case, the pages are teenagers living away from their parents. They are in a real sense the charges of the Congress. I think that as soon as someone knew that there were emails that had creeped out a page, they had an obligation to check it out — again, not necessarily with a formal investigation, but at the very least by doing the kind of inquiry that was so productive for ABC news.

    As I wrote on my blog: it is our responsibility, as adults, to protect children. It was the Congressional leadership’s more particular job to protect the pages. By not doing anything, they let someone who turns out to be a repeat offender to go on hitting on sixteen year olds for nearly a year. And that’s wrong.

    Especially since there would have been various ways of dealing with this relatively quietly, in a way that would not have had to cost them politically.

  4. eric Says:

    I think one of the telling signs in politics of something going on behind the scene is how fast someone resigns over scandal, or how fast other members of Congress denounce that person. If that person resigns, or is aggressively denounced quickly, then someone knew something.

    Foley resigned really really fast. Now, two days later, the GOP is calling for his head. Strangely quick.

    Rep Jefferson only got calls to step aside after all his cold hard cash was found. Which was a number of weeks I believe. I would sense the Democratic leadership was unaware, or only passively aware.

    Ney, Cunningham, Trafficant? How long from initial reports to resignation or removal?

    It’s spoiled food for thought.

  5. Pros and Cons » Foley’s Folly (and Republicans’ Nightmare) Says:

    [...] Steven Taylor has been following this whole Foley fiasco (see here, here, and here (he has posted several other posts on this topic, but these are the most extensive). Much to my dismay, I find that I’m too much of a cynic to be terribly surprised at this sort of thing. [...]


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