The House Ethics Committee heard testimony from key witnesses in the Foley e-mail scandal Thursday. Roll Call senior editor Ben Pershing provides an update on Republicans and Democrats investigating the actions of former Representative Mark Foley.
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Mark Foley hasn't been seen or heard from publicly since September 29th, when he abruptly resigned from Congress, just as sexually explicit instant messages he sent to former congressional pages were about to go public.
But Foley's actions continue to reverberate in tightly contested congressional races across the country and in Washington. At the Capitol today, attention focused on a central figure in the scandal: Kirk Fordham, once Foley's chief of staff. Fordham came to the House Ethics Committee room in the Capitol basement this afternoon.
Committee Republicans Doc Hastings and Judy Biggert and Democrats Howard Berman and Stephanie Tubbs Jones, given the job of investigating how Congress handled the matter, questioned Fordham about who knew about Foley's behavior and when.
Fordham previously said he warned Speaker Dennis Hastert's office in 2003 or earlier about Foley's behavior; that contradicts Hastert's claim that his office learned only late last year that Foley has sent out e-mails considered "over-friendly." Hastert has maintained that, once his aides learned of the e-mails, he alerted Illinois Republican John Shimkus, chairman of the board that oversees the page program, and that Shimkus sought out Foley.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), Speaker of the House: He confronted the member. And the member said that he would stop doing that. Asked if there was any other messages, he said, "No." And he said, "Don't do it again." You know, that's what we did.
Shimkus will testify before the committee tomorrow. Former House clerk Jeff Trandahl, who reportedly went with Shimkus to confront Foley, is also likely to testify. And late this afternoon, Kirk Fordham and his attorney emerged from the committee room after five hours of questioning.
TIMOTHY HEAPHY, Lawyer for Kirk Fordham: Kirk has been forthcoming with them. He has been consistent in his accounts of these events when he's met with the FBI, when he's today met with the Ethics Committee. He's been truthful and cooperative and will continue to be throughout this and other investigations.
We have been asked not to share the substance of the inquiry because of the ongoing investigations. We really can't provide any information specifically about what was asked.
In all, about four dozen subpoenas have been issued by the committee, but its members won't confirm the names of those summoned. However, the office of Majority Leader John Boehner has said he's been asked to testify. Boehner has claimed that Hastert told him months ago the Foley situation had been dealt with.
Other witnesses may include the speaker and three top aides, Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe, who said he knew as early as 2000 of inappropriate e-mails Foley had sent, and New York Republican Tom Reynolds, who also claims he discussed Foley with Hastert this past spring.
Foley could be called to testify, too. Since he's no longer a member of Congress, the Ethics Committee has no authority to discipline him.
A separate criminal investigation is being conducted by the FBI. On Tuesday, agents in Oklahoma City spent nearly three hours questioning former congressional page Jordan Edmund. He reportedly received explicit instant messages from Foley in 2001 and 2002.