The congressional page scandal's proving the straw that breaks the elephant's back, and Congressman Jim Kolbe's got explaining to do

This past weekend, a page who had not come forward until now added more detail on how friendship segued into kink.

The page, who requested anonymity from the Washington Post, recounted on Sunday how the messages took on a different tone as soon as the ambitious teenager finished the page program and sought employment.

Foley soon came knocking with a job offer "because I was a hot boy." A couple of years later, when the former page was scheduled to return to Washington, Foley wrote: "You could always stay at my place. I'm always here, I'm always lonely, and I'm always up for oral sex."

The House ethics committee's now targeted Jim Kolbe's behavior with congressional pages.
AP/Wide World Photos
The House ethics committee's now targeted Jim Kolbe's behavior with congressional pages.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (left), shown with Kolbe (third from left) at an unrelated press conference, has been accused of covering up for Foley.
AP/Wide World Photos
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (left), shown with Kolbe (third from left) at an unrelated press conference, has been accused of covering up for Foley.

Kolbe also offered his Washington, D.C., residence as a crash pad for groups of young pages. In fact, when you see the sort of solicitous relationship that Kolbe cultivated with the youngsters, it is not surprising that he invited two high school boys on the government-sponsored tour of the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon camping trip and all of the touching are only shocking when looked at in terms of normal adult/high school student relationships.

For the sake of argument, let's just accept for a second the fundamentalist Christian theory that homosexuality isn't something you are born with, it is something you choose, or, in the case of victims of molestation, something that is visited upon you.

This is all the more reason why you do not want teachers or coaches or congressmen "grooming" kids.

Like Catholic bishops who preferred to keep child molestation by priests quiet instead of taking more appropriate steps, Republican leadership moved with the Foley information in ways political rather than moral.

As the charade unravels, you'll forgive those of us who ask the party of family values: How's that working for you?

When ABC and Brian Ross confronted Congressman Foley, he abruptly resigned on September 29.

Everyone wanted to know what happened and when.

The House Committee on Ethics quickly learned that a Louisiana page had complained to his congressman about inappropriate e-mails from Congressman Foley in the fall of '05. Foley wanted a picture of the 16-year-old, and he wanted to give the boy a birthday gift.

The Louisiana congressman contacted the staff of the Speaker of the House.

No one involved contacted the Page Board.

Instead, top political operatives of the party sought to avert any fallout. Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican Campaign Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-New York) were brought into the loop. Although both claim they informed the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, he contradicts them and denies any memory of the events.

At one point, Congressman John Shimkus (R-Illinois), who is head of the House Page Board, and the Clerk of the House, John Trandahl, met with Foley regarding his request for a 16-year-old's photograph. Foley's e-mails to the high school student were excused as a misunderstanding.

Today the entire Republican leadership of the House claims they are just as surprised as the rest of us when it turns out that Foley also engaged in e-mail porn with a second high school page.

And here's what stinks about this explanation.

First, we all know now that legislative aide Kirk Fordham said he went to Speaker of the House Hastert's staff back in 2003 about his concerns regarding Foley's hitting on the young pages. Keep in mind that Fordham was in a unique position to know the truth as Foley's chief of staff. Hastert's people claim they do not remember Fordham warning them, just as Hastert himself does not remember warnings from Congressmen Boehner and Reynolds.

Second, the Clerk of the House, John Trandahl, who joined Congressman Shimkus in the '05 meeting with Foley regarding the Louisiana page, is the very same clerk whom Congressman Kolbe alerted back in 2000-2001 regarding an Arizona page. As long as six years ago, Trandahl knew that Foley was acting inappropriately with high school students.

On October 19, Trandahl informed the House ethics committee that he'd known about Foley for some time. More to the point, the New York Times reported that Trandahl "periodically advised senior Republican leadership aides of complaints about Representative Mark Foley's behavior on Capitol Hill."

A second source now confirms Trandahl's account.

It is obvious that the Republican leadership had repeated warnings about Foley. Instead of disciplining the creep, they ducked the issue hoping to keep things quiet. Instead of protecting these high school students, they protected their flank.

Ask yourself what would happen to any teacher caught soliciting a 16-year-old for a photograph, let alone engaging in smarmy conversational gambits with students over the Internet.

Now that the Foley sleaze is public, nearly half a dozen more pages have come forward.

Congressman Kolbe's behavior — his lax handling of the Arizona page's complaint, his camping trip with 17-year-olds at the Grand Canyon, his alleged physical contact with another page who felt uncomfortable — is now under committee scrutiny.

With all of this voyeuristic candy in front of us, Arizona voters might want to remember something else as they consider Proposition 107's attempt to strong-arm the state into the family-values camp.

Gerry Studds passed away October 14 in the middle of the Foley/Kolbe fiasco at the age of 69.

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