- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

1:53 p.m.

Former Rep. Mark Foley, under FBI investigation for e-mail exchanges with teenage congressional pages, has checked himself into a rehabilitation facility for alcoholism treatment and accepts responsibility for his actions, his attorney acknowledged today.

The attorney, David Roth, would not identify the facility but told Associated Press in West Palm Beach, Fla., that Mr. Foley had checked in over the weekend.

“I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems,” Mr. Foley said in a statement, Mr. Roth reported.

Mr. Foley, a Republican, abruptly quit Congress on Friday after reports surfaced that he had sent sexually charged electronic messages to boys working as pages. In the statement, Mr. Foley said the “events that led to my resignation have crystallized recognition of my long-standing and significant alcoholism and emotional difficulties.

“I deeply regret and accept full responsibility for the harm I have caused,” Mr. Foley said. He also expressed “gratitude for the prayers and words of encouragement that have been conveyed to me.”

The FBI, meanwhile, “is conducting an assessment to see if there’s been a violation of federal law,” according to FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said today that it also was investigating whether the e-mail communications violated state law. Spokesman Tom Berlinger called the state probe “a precursor to a possible criminal investigation.”

The developments sent House Republicans into damage-control mode amid charges by Democrats that some House leaders may have known for months about Mr. Foley’s inappropriate overtures toward the young pages.

Democrats have questioned whether the GOP leadership, including House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, tried to protect a House seat in an election year at the expense of the well-being of teenage pages.

Mr. Hastert issued his strongest statement yet, saying he was “outraged and disgusted with Congressman Mark Foley’s actions.”

The speaker was in Washington meeting with his staff, the House clerk and Rep. John Shimkus, Illinois Republican, the congressman who oversees the page program, to review the procedures on protecting the teenage pages while they are working at the Capitol and after they finish their assignments, said Ron Bonjean, Mr. Hastert’s spokesman.

White House press secretary Tony Snow, asked about that Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” urged greater efforts to “figure out what happened here.” He called it “a terrible story” and said he considered it unfortunate that “people are thinking, ‘OK, can I get political advantage out of this.’”

In a letter sent Sunday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Mr. Hastert asked the Justice Department to “conduct an investigation of Mr. Foley’s conduct with current and former House pages,” including “any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement.”

Democrats demanded that investigators determine whether Republican leaders tried to cover up Mr. Foley’s actions for political reasons.

“The attorney general should open a full-scale investigation immediately,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement, including whether GOP leaders “knew there was a problem and ignored it to preserve a congressional seat this election year.”

Mr. Foley’s West Palm Beach district is largely Republican but may be won by a Democrat. Republicans are struggling to maintain their House majority in the upcoming election. Florida Republican leaders were meeting today to try to choose a candidate to replace Mr. Foley in the November election.

FBI cyber-sleuths are looking into the text of some of the Foley messages, checking to see how many e-mails and instant electronic messages were sent and how many computers were used, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The FBI also was trying to determine if any of the teenagers who received messages are willing to cooperate with the investigation, the official said.

Ironically, Mr. Foley, who is 52 and single, could be found to have violated a law that he helped write as co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus.

Rep. Thomas Reynolds of New York, head of the House Republican election effort, said he told Mr. Hastert months ago about the claims involving a 16-year-old boy from Louisiana.

Mr. Hastert acknowledged that his staff had been made aware of concerns about what they termed “overfriendly” e-mails Mr. Foley had sent to the teenager — including one requesting the young man’s picture — in the fall of 2005, and that they referred the matter to the House clerk.

However, Mr. Hastert said those e-mails were not viewed as “sexual in nature” and that he was not aware of “a different set of communications which were sexually explicit … which Mr. Foley reportedly sent another former page or pages.”

Congressional pages, a staple of Washington politics since the 1820s, are high school students who serve as gofers in the House and Senate.

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