How the Foley scandal unfolded
The ex- congressman's e-mails to teenage boys have sparked FBI and House probes, hurting GOP leaders.
One week after Rep. Mark Foley (R) of Florida resigned over sexually explicit electronic messages to teenage boys, the firestorm rages. The scandal has unleashed furious finger-pointing among Capitol Hill Republicans, the resignation of a top House aide, and Democratic charges of a coverup – all as the Nov. 7 congressional elections draw near.Skip to next paragraph
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Thursday, the bipartisan House Ethics Committee met behind closed doors to discuss Mr. Foley's actions and the House GOP leadership's handling of early warnings that Foley was behaving inappropriately toward former pages, high school students who work on the Hill as messengers. The committee, which launched an investigation, approved four dozen subpoenas for witnesses and documents.
Both the FBI and Florida law enforcement have started preliminary inquiries, in advance of a possible full criminal investigation into whether Foley violated any laws. House officials have been ordered to "preserve all records" relevant to the matter. Here are the facts so far:
Why did Foley resign?
The six-term member representing Florida's 16th district abruptly quit last Friday after ABC News presented to him the texts of lewd instant-message conversations he had carried on with male former pages in 2003. After resigning, Foley checked into an alcohol-rehab facility in Florida, citing alcoholism and "other behavioral issues." Through his lawyer, he also announced that he was gay and had been abused by a clergyman as a young teen, though he had "never attempted to have sexual contact with a minor."
Foley has not disavowed any of the e-mail and instant-message exchanges that have come to light, and has offered no excuses, his lawyer said. At least one exchange suggests an effort to meet in person with a former page, though it is not known how old the ex-page would have been at the time.
Why are Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and other House GOP leaders in political trouble?
Critics, both Republican and Democrat, say the leaders had received enough evidence earlier this year that Foley was behaving inappropriately to warrant further investigation. The incident that critics say should have triggered concern centered on an e-mail exchange last fall that Foley had had with a former page sponsored by Rep. Rodney Alexander (R) of Louisiana. The e-mails, which the boy's family had brought to the attention of Mr. Alexander's staff, were not overtly sexual, but rather "over-friendly," according to Alexander's office. Still, the content – including a request from Foley that the boy send a picture of himself and asking him what he wanted for his birthday – had made the boy uncomfortable.
Alexander's staff then contacted the office of Speaker Hastert about the e-mails, but did not reveal their exact content, citing the family's request to keep the matter quiet. Hastert's office referred the matter to Rep. John Shimkus (R) of Illinois, chair of the House Page Board, which oversees the page program. The other two members of the board, including a Democrat, were not informed. Mr. Shimkus and the clerk of the House, who runs the page program, told Foley to stop contact with the boy.
In spring 2006, Alexander mentioned the Foley situation to the No. 2 House Republican, John Boehner of Ohio, who suggested he contact Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) of New York, who heads the House's GOP campaign committee. Reps. Boehner and Reynolds say they discussed the matter with Hastert, but the speaker says he does not recall such a conversation. Hastert maintains that he knew nothing of any inappropriate behavior toward former pages by Foley until last week.
Why did Reynolds's chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, just resign?
Mr. Fordham, who had been Foley's chief of staff for 10 years, until 2004, quit Wednesday over a dispute with Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer. Fordham says he had brought concerns about Foley's behavior to Mr. Palmer before 2004. Palmer denies the allegation. Fordham told reporters he resigned so he would not become a political liability to Reynolds, who is in a tough reelection battle. Fordham has pledged to cooperate with the FBI investigation.