- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lawmakers, in response to a request from the House ethics committee, are surveying aides and former House pages to find out whether any knew about former Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate conduct toward male pages.

Charlie Keller, spokesman for Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, Florida Republican, said she contacted two pages before receiving the committee request and asked whether they were aware of inappropriate behavior from Mr. Foley, any other lawmaker or staff members. Both said they were not.

Aides for other House members reported similar results yesterday.

The ethics committee leaders, in a letter to all House members, asked them to contact current and former pages they sponsored to learn whether any had “inappropriate communications or interactions” with Mr. Foley or any other House member.

The panel, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also directed lawmakers to cast a wide net and ask aides what they might have heard about improper approaches by Mr. Foley or others to pages before revelations about his sexually explicit Internet messages surfaced last month. Mr. Foley resigned Sept. 29.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Kirk Fordham, Mr. Foley’s former chief of staff, said yesterday that his client could testify before the committee as early as this week. Mr. Fordham has said he informed House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s staff in 2003 about Mr. Foley’s inappropriate messages to pages.

Timothy Heaphy, Mr. Fordham’s attorney, said he contacted the ethics panel Friday and was told that his client could appear this week to provide sworn testimony. The ethics committee’s four-person investigative subcommittee said it approved nearly four dozen subpoenas for testimony and documents, although many witnesses are expected to testify voluntarily without the need for a subpoena.

J. Randolph Evans, Mr. Hastert’s attorney, said, “We are working to cooperate fully,” but did not know when the speaker might appear.

Mr. Fordham is a key figure because he has said he notified the speaker’s staff about Mr. Foley in 2003 and possibly as far back as 2002. His statements have been rebutted by Hastert Chief of Staff Scott Palmer, who denied having a discussion with Mr. Fordham about the Florida congressman. A major task of the ethics panel will be to determine who is telling the truth.

In a CBS News-New York Times poll released yesterday, four in five said Republican leaders were more concerned with politics than with the well-being of the congressional pages. Nearly half of those polled, 46 percent, said Mr. Hastert should step down, while 26 percent said he shouldn’t.

But voters have their doubts about how the Democrats would have handled the page scandal, with 75 percent in an ABC News-Washington Post poll saying Democrats would not have done any better.

The letter from Chairman Doc Hastings, Washington Republican, and ranking Democrat Howard L. Berman of California to all House members said the two expected that lawmakers with information would contact the subcommittee and asked lawmakers to question their staff members about whether they have any relevant information.

The ethics leaders promised to finished their investigation in weeks, not months, but did not promise they would be finished by Election Day on Nov. 7.

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