Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The supervisor of the congressional page program was questioned by the House ethics committee yesterday as part of its investigation into former Rep. Mark Foley’s behavior and whether House officials covered up the disgraced lawmaker’s come-ons to teenagers.

Peggy Sampson would not comment to reporters after the closed session, which lasted more than two hours. The committee also questioned Wren Ivester, who is in charge of the pages sponsored by Democratic lawmakers.

Mr. Foley, Florida Republican, sent e-mails and instant messages, some of them sexually explicit, to male pages after they left the program.

A four-member investigative panel of the evenly divided ethics committee is sorting out conflicts — including whether House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s office learned about Mr. Foley’s inappropriate conduct in 2002, 2003 or 2005. All those years were mentioned, depending on who is telling the story.

Kirk Fordham, Mr. Foley’s one-time chief of staff, is scheduled for questioning today by a House ethics committee investigative panel. He said that he notified Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer in 2002 or 2003 about Mr. Foley’s inappropriate conduct and that he subsequently learned that Mr. Palmer met with Mr. Foley.

An internal review released by Mr. Hastert’s office on Sept. 30 said that the first notice to Mr. Hastert’s aides about Mr. Foley wasn’t until fall 2005 — and that it didn’t come from Mr. Fordham.

Rather, the review said, it came from the office of Rep. Rodney Alexander, Louisiana Republican, after the lawmaker learned of an “overly friendly” — but not sexually explicit — e-mail from Mr. Foley to a page from the congressman’s state.

Mr. Palmer has publicly disputed Mr. Fordham’s account. It was not clear when the ethics committee will question him.

The contradiction between the staff aides is almost outdone by Mr. Hastert’s conflicts with statements by two members of his leadership team: Majority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and the House Republican campaign chairman, Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of New York.

Longtime conservative leader Paul Weyrich said Tuesday that Mr. Hastert of Illinois had assured him that Mr. Boehner was wrong when he said that he had told Mr. Hastert months ago about the page problem with Mr. Foley.

“As to Congressman Thomas M. Reynolds, the speaker said, ‘If he had mentioned this problem to me, I surely would have taken notice,’” Mr. Weyrich said in an e-mailed account of a phone conversation with Mr. Hastert.

Mr. Weyrich quoted Mr. Hastert as saying that Mr. Reynolds often came to him with numerous requests to help incumbents in trouble.

“The speaker said he signs off on the majority of requests and only listens with one ear because the requests are repetitive,” Mr. Weyrich said.

“Did Reynolds during such a session drop the bombshell about Foley in the speaker’s lap without the speaker’s comprehending what was being told to him? ‘That is possible but unlikely,’ the speaker said. In any case, he has absolutely no recollection,” Mr. Weyrich said.

Mr. Boehner’s spokesman, Kevin Madden, said the differing accounts were not surprising because the events occurred four months ago.

A spokesman for Mr. Hastert had no comment. A Reynolds spokesman, L.D. Platt, said Mr. Hastert had said he didn’t recall the conversation.

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