Thursday, October 12, 2006

Former Foley Staffer testifies he told Hastert's office about Foley

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Rep. Mark Foley's one-time aide didn't waver Thursday from his contention that he told the House Speaker's chief of staff at least three years ago about Foley's approaches to male pages, the witness' lawyer said.
Kirk Fordham would not comment after emerging from nearly five hours of closed-door testimony before the House ethics committee, but his lawyer, Timothy Heaphy, said Fordham was ''consistent in his accounts.'' Fordham has spoken out publicly on his timeline and was questioned by the FBI.
Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill, has said he learned of inappropriate approaches by Foley in late September and his aides found out in the fall of 2005. Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, has denied that Fordham contacted him at least three years ago, contradicting Fordham and creating one of the major conflicts the committee must resolve.
Heaphy told reporters Fordham was ''forthcoming'' in his testimony. ''He has been consistent in his accounts of these events when he talked to the FBI and today met with the ethics committee.
''He's been truthful and cooperative and will continue to be throughout this and other investigations.''
Heaphy said Fordham has been asked not to comment on the substance of the inquiry because of the ongoing investigation.
Foley resigned from Congress on Sept. 29 after being confronted with sexually explicit instant messages.
Polls indicate the page scandal is hurting Republican chances of retaining the majority in the House. President Bush appeared with the embattled speaker in Chicago on Thursday, saying the country would be ''better off'' with Hastert in power.
''I am proud to be standing with the current speaker of the House, who is going to be the future speaker of the House,'' Bush said as he opened a speech to raise money for two Illinois congressional candidates.
Fordham isn't the only witness who will testify about earlier, unsuccessful attempts to stop Foley, although the timelines differ.
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., scheduled to appear Friday, has said he confronted Foley last fall, after he was told by Hastert's office of an overly friendly -- but not sexually explicit -- e-mail to a page from Louisiana.
Shimkus is chairman of the House Page Board, a group of three lawmakers and two House officers who set policy for the program that brings teenagers to Congress to attend school and perform errands in the chamber during sessions.
Shimkus has said that he and then-House clerk Jeff Trandahl confronted Foley in his office last fall after hearing from Hastert's aides about the e-mail. Shimkus said he told Foley to cease all contact with the Louisiana teenager.
The lawmaker did not tell the two other House members of the page board about the meeting -- Dale Kildee, D-Mich., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
Shimkus said he was following the wishes of the boy's parents.
''I think Congressman Shimkus acted in an expedited manner to find out what happened,'' while respecting the wishes of the family, Hastert said in support of Shimkus' decision to keep the two other lawmakers out of the loop.
Another Republican House member, Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, has pushed the timeline on GOP knowledge of Foley's conduct back to 2001.
Kolbe said a former page contacted his office to report receiving e-mails from Foley that made him uncomfortable. ''I was not shown the content of the messages and was not told they were sexually explicit. It was my recommendation that this complaint be passed along to Rep. Foley's office and the clerk who supervised the page program. This was done promptly,'' he said.
Republicans received a new indication Thursday that the Foley scandal is hurting their chances of retaining control of the House.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., said in Cape Girardeau that GOP leaders made a mistake in failing to take quick action to address Foley's conduct. She said the controversy and the public's frustration with the war in Iraq could make it difficult for the GOP to retain control.
''Today, I'd say we aren't going to hold it,'' she said in remarks quoted by the Southeast Missourian newspaper in Cape Girardeau.
Before Fordham appeared, Capito was questioned by the House investigators.
''I'm a member of the page board who was not informed of the e-mail messages that were sent. I want the investigation to go forth quickly and reach a conclusion,'' she said after finishing her testimony.
Capito's Democratic opponent had earlier accused her of failing to protect the high schoolers in the page program.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor and Natasha Metzler contributed to this report.

Watch Greg Jones Peace song video

Greg Jones has created a powerful web video for his special musical message for world peace CD entitled GOD BLESS THE WORLD-Not Just America. To see the video simply click here.