Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hastert Chief Of Staff Testifies Before Ethics Committee

It looks like Palmer is still sticking to his story.

The congressional investigation of the Mark Foley page scandal reached into the House's highest office yesterday, as the chief of staff to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) spent more than six hours testifying to a House ethics subcommittee.

Scott Palmer, Hastert's top aide for nearly two decades, is central to the inquiry: A key witness has said he told Palmer a few years ago that Foley was showing inappropriate interest in teenagers working as House pages. Foley (R-Fla.) resigned his seat Sept. 29 after ABC News confronted him with sexually graphic electronic messages he had exchanged with former pages.

Palmer, 55, has said the account told by Kirk Fordham, who was Foley's chief of staff, "did not happen."

Last night, as Palmer and his attorney, Scott Fredericksen, left the office of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Fredericksen said his client's testimony was "consistent with the position he's taken all along." ...

Fordham, who met with the ethics subcommittee on Oct. 12, has said he went to Palmer with a different concern involving Foley and pages. Repeatedly unable to dissuade Foley from showing inordinate attention to pages, Fordham said, he appealed to Palmer to use his substantial influence to change the Florida lawmaker's behavior. Fordham said Palmer later told him that he had spoken with Foley about the problem and informed Hastert.

Palmer, in a brief statement earlier this month, disputed Fordham's account. He has made no public comments since. ...

The bipartisan ethics subcommittee spent yesterday morning questioning Sally Vastola, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee and a longtime top aide to Reynolds. Reynolds, who chairs the NRCC and faces a tough reelection battle in Upstate New York, is expected to meet with the subcommittee today.

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