Rep. Kolbe Knew of Foley’s Improper Online Exchanges Since 2000

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON — Another Republican congressman knew of disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate Internet exchanges as far back as 2000 and personally confronted Mr. Foley about his communications.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Kolbe, a Republican of Arizona, confirmed yesterday that a former page showed the congressman Internet messages that had made the youth feel uncomfortable with the direction Mr. Foley, a Republican of Florida, was taking their e-mail relationship. Last week, when the Foley matter erupted, a Kolbe staff member suggested to the former page that he take the matter to the clerk of the House, Karen Haas, Mr. Kolbe’s press secretary, Korenna Cline, said.

The disclosure pushes back by at least five years the date when a member of Congress has acknowledged learning of Mr. Foley’s questionable behavior. A timeline issued by the House speaker, Rep. Dennis Hastert, a Republican of Illinois, suggested the first lawmakers to know, Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican of Illinois and the chairman of the House Page Board, and Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Republican of Louisiana, became aware of “overfriendly” e-mails only last fall. It also expands the universe of players in the drama beyond members either in leadership or on the page board.

A source with direct knowledge of Mr. Kolbe’s involvement said the messages shared with Mr. Kolbe were sexually explicit, and he read the contents to the Washington Post under condition that they are not reprinted. But Ms. Cline denied that, saying only that they had made the former page feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she said “corrective action” was taken. Ms. Cline said she has not yet determined whether that action went beyond Mr. Kolbe’s confrontation with Mr. Foley.

In interviews with the Post last week, multiple pages identified Mr. Kolbe as a close friend and personal confidante, who was one of the only members of Congress to take any interest in them. A former page himself, Mr. Kolbe offered to mentor pages and kept in touch with some of them after they left the program, according to the interviews.

Mr. Kolbe once invited four former pages to make use of his Washington home while he was out of town, according to an instant message between Mr. Foley and another former page, Jordan Edmund, in January 2002. The pages planned to attend a first-year reunion of their page class. But they never took Mr. Kolbe up on his offer because of a snow storm, according to one of the four pages.

Ms. Cline said one of the youths invited was a former page of Mr. Kolbe’s. Because the congressman frequently travels on weekends, either to his Arizona ranch or abroad, the house is often available to friends, constituents, staff, and former staff members, such as a former page, she said.

Mr. Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican in Congress, is retiring at the end of the year.

The latest disclosure in the growing House page scandal comes a month before crucial midterm elections. Mr. Foley resigned September 29 after ABC News confronted him with the sexually explicit messages that he exchanged with a former page, triggering investigations by the Justice Department, the House ethics committee, and Florida authorities.

Mr. Hastert and his top aides have been sharply criticized by Democrats and some conservative Republicans for failing to act promptly after receiving warnings that Mr. Foley had been sexually predatory in dealing with pages and former pages. The speaker’s spokesman, Ron Bonjean, said yesterday: “Allegations of inappropriate conduct by members of Congress towards pages need to be fully reviewed by the ethics committee and law enforcement.”

In addressing the news about Mr. Kolbe, Mr. Bonjean said, “This allegation reiterates why the speaker has also called for a full review of the House page program to ensure that it is as safe and secure as possible.”

A new poll by Newsweek indicated the Foley scandal was doing significant damage to the Republicans’ political fortunes and could sink their chances of holding onto control of Congress on Election Day, November 7. The poll found 52% of Americans, including 29% of Republicans, believe Mr. Hastert was aware of Mr. Foley’s Internet communications with underage pages and tried to cover up Mr. Foley’s actions. A plurality of those polled, 42%, say they trust Democrats to do a better job handling moral values than Republicans; 36% favored Republicans on the values question.

In a sharp exchange on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican of Georgia, the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, insinuated that Democrats were behind the disclosures of Mr. Foley’s actions and the release of e-mails and instant messages showing that Mr. Foley having sexually graphic or highly suggestive conversations with former pages.

“What I don’t understand is where have these e-mails been for three years? Are we saying that a 15-year-old child would have sat on e-mails that were triple-X-rated for three years and suddenly spring them out right on the eve of an election? That’s just a little bit too suspicious, even for Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Kingston said.

Rep. Martin Meehan, a Democrat of Massachusetts, shot back, “If there’s any evidence that you need that the values in Washington have turned upside down, you could just hear what Jack had to say. Only in Washington, D.C., can you take a group of people in charge of the House and basically have evidence that they’ve been looking the other way while a predator has been … going after 15- and 16-year-old pages, [and] they somehow … have the audacity to turn that into a political attack against Democrats.”

So far, only ABC News and the Washington Post have actually obtained the sexually explicit instant messages between two former pages and Mr. Foley. The Post obtained its copies from a former page who served in Capitol Hill with the other two pages.

The New York Sun

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