Saturday, December 09, 2006

Nothing Bothers These Folks

The House ethics committee concluded yesterday that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his top staff probably knew for months, if not years, of then-Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate contact with former House pages but did nothing to protect the teenagers. ...

But the ethics panel, officially known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, decided against taking any action against the leaders, aides or House officials involved in the saga, declining even to describe their actions as bringing ill repute on the House.

The ethics committee managed to dig up evidence of a cover-up, even as it managed to exonerate the main conspirators:

(A previously unreported) incident was also brought to light in the report. After the Foley matter became public on Sept. 29, The Post quoted Boehner saying that he had told Hastert that spring of concerns about Foley and that Hastert had said the matter was being taken care of. When the story appeared on The Post's Web site that night, (Scott) Palmer, Hastert's chief of staff, contacted Boehner's chief of staff to discuss what the report called "the perceived inconsistency" between Boehner's story and Hastert's statement denying all knowledge of the concerns.

That led to a late-night strategy session of House GOP leaders in Boehner's office, which some members at the time feared was inappropriate because the case had been referred to the ethics committee. ...

On the central question of Hastert's involvement, the committee firmly sided with (clerk of the House, Jeff) Trandahl and former Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham, who testified that they brought Foley's behavior to the attention of Palmer and of Hastert counsel Van Der Meid years ago. Fordham also testified that Palmer assured him he had brought the issue directly to the speaker in late 2002 or early 2003.

Trandahl said Palmer had told him: "I've talked to Kirk Fordham. I understand the problem. I'm on it." He said he remembered it "vividly."

Palmer testified repeatedly that he remembered no such meeting, and Hastert said he did not remember learning anything of the Foley matter.

But the committee found "the weight of the evidence supports" Fordham and Trandahl. Moreover, "the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that Speaker Hastert was told, at least in passing, about the e-mails" by Boehner and Reynolds in spring 2006.

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