Monday, December 18, 2006

The redacting process in the House ethics panel’s detailing of the Mark Foley affair failed to omit the name of one teenage boy who received sexually explicit instant messages from Mr. Foley. The report, which measures two inches thick, included the Florida Republican’s telephone number.

The 100 pages of texts of the e-mails and instant messages portray Mr. Foley as a risk-taker who appeared to know he was doing something wrong.

The four-person investigative subpanel of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct pulled together 3,500 pages of transcribed sworn testimony from 51 persons with knowledge of Mr. Foley’s behavior toward the teenage boys serving as congressional pages. They blacked out identifying details about the teenagers — such as their Internet screen names and their hometowns — but missed a few.

The e-mails between Mr. Foley and a former page in the office of Rep. Rodney Alexander, Louisiana Republican, which first ignited the political scandal, have the boy’s name eliminated, but include details about his high school class schedule, his role in specific state leadership groups and his work with a young Republicans group.

In addition, instant messages between Mr. Foley and another former page are printed with the page’s first name still included in one exchange. An instant-message exchange between Mr. Foley and a third former page mention’s another boy’s name.

The ethics panel did not eliminate a note from Mr. Foley in which he told an ex-page to call him and typed in his home number on D Street Southeast.

Beyond the identifying references, a close read of the sexually explicit instant messages between Mr. Foley and at least two former pages reveal a man who appeared to be aware of the political ramifications that could emerge if the messages were exposed.

In one chat after the teenager graphically described sex acts, Mr. Foley tells the former page: “Just didn’t want you to share we had been having fun e-mail chats.”

The boy responds: “Why would I do that … that could do some harm … and I wouldn’t want to hurt your campaign.”

Mr. Foley, who was chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, replied: “Thanks. That would cause some huge harm.”

He worries about his phone number appearing on a former page’s cellular phone bill that is viewed by the teen’s parents, saying: “I don’t want to be listed as one of your calls.”

Mr. Foley says he will help the boy accomplish his goal of becoming a “stylish and elite” person.

“We will make you successful,” Mr. Foley said, “as long as you don’t mind me [performing an oral sex act] once in awhile.”

The Internet exchanges also paint the congressman as increasingly aggressive toward the teenagers, telling them how much he misses them and, in several instances, that he loves them.

“Slow things down a little, I’m still young,” one page tells Mr. Foley in a graphic chat.

In another chat, Mr. Foley and a page made fun of another boy’s plaid pajamas and described the underwear the other boys wore to bed.

Mr. Foley calls the pages “cute little sexy 18-year-olds,” and asserts: “I am not a sicko.”

Former Clerk Jeff Trandahl, who oversaw the page program, testified he often warned Mr. Foley to stay away from the boys, telling him: “You are creating an enormous political risk for yourself.”

The ethics panel said lawmakers failed to protect congressional pages and noted how the Democrats shopped the story of the Foley e-mails to newspapers in the hope of creating a scandal before the elections.

But it recommended no punishment, despite saying several Republicans, including House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and his staff, seemed to have ignored the situation in fear of political consequences or of exposing Mr. Foley’s homosexuality.

There are many conflicting stories in the testimony.

Kirk Fordham, Mr. Foley’s chief of staff at the time, told the ethics panel he spoke to Hastert Chief of Staff Scott Palmer in late 2002 or early 2003 because both were worried after a late-night drunken visit by Mr. Foley to the page dormitory and a lengthy and emotional graduation speech he gave to the pages on the House floor.

“We were both sort of exasperated about the fact that he’s got a bright future … couldn’t understand why he would put himself in such a position, that it was sort of reckless behavior,” Mr. Fordham testified, saying the two men agreed Mr. Foley should be confronted.

Mr. Fordham testified that Mr. Palmer had told him he had spoken to Mr. Foley, that the congressman “understood the message,” and that he had “brought the speaker into the loop.”

Mr. Palmer testified he could not recall having such a discussion with Mr. Foley: “I just don’t remember it, and I think it would have been an awkward conversation.”

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner recalled to the panel he and Mr. Hastert spoke about the Foley matter on the House floor and the speaker told him something to the effect of “it had been taken care of.”

Mr. Hastert professed a foggy memory, testifying: “I don’t remember having that conversation with Boehner on the House floor, and probably the House floor would not be the place to have that conversation.”

Mr. Hastert said he carries “little note cards” with him at all times, writing down items of importance to remember them later. He had made no notes about the Foley affair, he said.

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