- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

A top House Republican said yesterday that anyone who participated in any cover-up of the Mark Foley page scandal should be removed from power.

“Anybody that hindered this in any kind of way [or was] covering it up, is going to have to step down,” Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Government Reform Committee, said yesterday.

The House ethics committee is investigating the relationships that former Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, had with teenage boys who had served as congressional pages. The panel also is investigating whether the House Republican leadership, which first heard complaints about Mr. Foley at least a year ago, acted quickly enough.

In an appearance yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Mr. Davis, a former page himself, nevertheless said that calls for the resignation of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois were premature and that a Hastert resignation would drag out the Foley scandal and prevent the Republican Party from running on issues.

“I don’t think that’s going to satisfy the Democrats. I think it just keeps the feeding frenzy going,” he said. “I think we just need to … get this investigation over, let the chips fall where they may and get out, in the next 30 days and talk about the other issues that are important to the American people. And right now, there’s no oxygen for those issues. And that’s hurting Republicans.”

Meanwhile yesterday, the scandal expanded with a Los Angeles Times report that a former page said he had sexual relations with Mr. Foley in 2000. According to the report, Mr. Foley’s explicit e-mail overtures began shortly after the boy left the page program and culminated in the sexual encounter at Mr. Foley’s Capitol Hill home after he’d turned 21.

The former page, whom the Times did not identify, said Mr. Foley assessed the sexuality, appearance and sexual attributes of the teenage pages but indicated that he waited until they left Capitol Hill to make direct advances. The paper reported that one instant message the former page received from Maf54, a screen name Mr. Foley used, read: “I always knew you were a player but I don’t fool around with pages.”

He said Mr. Foley’s advances were widely known among former pages and many were surprised it took so long for him “to get caught.”

Among those Republicans already ensnared in the scandal is Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, who backed out of a scheduled appearance yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.” Mr. Reynolds, according to his office, had “flulike symptoms.”

Mr. Reynolds first learned of complaints against Mr. Foley last year and says he reported them to Mr. Hastert. He began an ad campaign over the weekend in which he apologizes for not acting more aggressively on the matter.

“Nobody’s angrier and more disappointed that I didn’t catch his lies,” Mr. Reynolds says of Mr. Foley. “I trusted that others had investigated. Looking back, more should have been done, and for that, I am sorry.”

A recent Zogby International poll conducted for the Buffalo News found Mr. Reynolds trailing Democratic challenger Jack Davis by 15 percentage points — 48 percent to 33 percent.

Rep. Adam H. Putnam, Florida Republican and Mr. Reynolds’ replacement on “This Week” yesterday, said the scandal has run its course and downplayed whether it will help Democrats gain the 15 seats needed to take control of the chamber.

“The dirty laundry in our conference is gone,” said Mr. Putnam, who heads the Republican Policy Committee. “It certainly has put members all across the country in the position of having to answer uncomfortable questions about tawdry deeds by a former colleague.”

For example, the Foley scandal was the first question asked by NBC’s Tim Russert on a “Meet the Press” debate between the two candidates for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat.

“When a 50-year-old man is asking a teenage boy on the Internet for his picture, the response needs to be something other than ‘I better go tell the chairman of the Republican campaign committee,’” Missouri state auditor Claire McCaskill said, later answering “yes” when asked whether Mr. Hastert should resign.

Republican incumbent Jim Talent said that matters may force Mr. Hastert or other high House officials to resign, but “we need to find out who knew what, we need to have a zero tolerance policy and let the chips fall where they may.”

On CBS, Rep. Ray LaHood, Illinois Republican, also made some cautious criticisms of the party’s leadership.

“There’s been a lot of ducking and dodging and diving and weaving all week long,” he said of Republican leadership last week. On Thursday, Mr. Hastert held a press conference to accept responsibility.

“I think he’s done what he should have done, maybe a few days too late,” he said on CBS, adding that the last month of the campaign will “be the most difficult 30 days in the last 12 years that we’ve been the majority party.”

Mr. Davis, who predicted that Republicans would lose their majority if the election were held today, warned against assuming that the scandal would sink the Republicans next month.

“Remember, 30 days is a long time,” he said. “If you asked me 30 days out in 2000, when I was chairman of the campaign committee, we probably would have lost it too.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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