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House ethics panel finds no official misconduct in Foley probe
Scripps Howard News Service


December 09, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The House ethics committee concluded Friday that Republican leaders were "willfully ignorant" of former Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate conduct with congressional pages but that the lawmakers did not violate any rules of official conduct.

In a report released Friday, panel members found that current lawmakers and members of their staff did little to stop Foley's inappropriate communication with the teenage boys, even as his Internet messages escalated over time.

The Florida lawmaker resigned in late September after it was discovered that he sent sexually charged online messages to teenage boys who were congressional pages. Since then, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it was launching a full-fledged criminal investigation into Foley's actions.

"In its review of this matter, the investigative subcommittee was disturbed by the conduct of some of those who dealt with allegations regarding the conduct of former Representative Foley," the committee wrote in the report. "In all, a pattern of conduct was exhibited among many individuals to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences of former Representative Foley's conduct with respect to House pages."

"The failure to exhaust all reasonable efforts to call attention to potential misconduct involving a member and a House page is not merely the exercise of poor judgment," the report went on to say. "It is a present danger to House pages and to the integrity of the institution of the House."

At the same time, the committee recommended "no further investigative or disciplinary proceedings against any specific person."

The committee conducted more than 50 interviews - including eight House lawmakers - and spent more than 100 hours on the inquiry over nine weeks, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., committee chairman, said at a news conference on Friday.

The panel tried to determine "who knew about this and what did they know about and what did they do about it when they found out," Hastings said. "20/20 hindsight is easy."

Although the report does not specifically blame anyone for covering up Foley's communications, the report focuses on House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who some claim knew about Foley's inappropriate behavior.

Hastert was informed by House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio and Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., about Foley's communication with congressional pages in the spring of 2006, the report said. But the speaker has said he does not remember having these conversations with his colleagues.

"The speaker's reported statement in response to Majority Leader Boehner that the matter 'has been taken care of' is some evidence that the speaker was aware of some concern regarding Rep. Foley's conduct," committee members said in the report.

The report also said Hastert aide Ted Van Der Meid "should have done more to learn about the e-mails and how they were handled."

On Friday, committee members did not answer questions about the process or their determinations.

"I stand by this report," said Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., ranking member on the committee, adding that committee members conducted the inquiry with a "high level of integrity and a low level of partisanship."

He added: "Each session was marked by a genuine effort to determine the truth and facts."

Noted committee member Judy Biggert, R-Ill.: "I think we found the truth. We answered the questions we had to answer."


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