WASHINGTON (AP) – When House Speaker Dennis Hastert took questions on the Mark Foley scandal in Aurora, Ill., he appeared against a backdrop that Republicans hope doesn’t foretell the effects on their election prospects.

A graveyard.

The political blows kept on coming Tuesday as Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe said he had told the House official in charge of the pages as early as 2001 about Rep. Mark Foley’s “creepy” e-mail to a former page.

Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican in Congress, said a former page he had sponsored contacted his office to complain of e-mails from Foley and that he “passed along” the complaint to Foley, R-Fla., and then-House Clerk Jeff Trandahl. Kolbe said he did not take the matter to other lawmakers.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., again said his staff aides acted appropriately last fall in handling information on Foley’s conduct.

“I didn’t think anybody at any time in my office did anything wrong,” he said. But he also issued a stern warning: “If they did cover something up, then they should not continue to have their jobs.”

The developments unfolded as a prominent conservative quoted Hastert as casting doubt on claims by two members of the leadership in connection with the page scandal.

Kolbe spokeswoman Korenna Cline said the complaints to the lawmaker from a former page involved e-mails that were described as “creepy” but were not seen by Kolbe, and occurred in 2001 or 2002, well before House leaders say they first learned of inappropriate messages sent by Foley.

Kolbe is the second person to come forward and say that top House officials had early warnings about inappropriate Foley approaches to pages.

A lawyer for Kirk Fordham, Foley’s longtime chief of staff, said Fordham will tell the House ethics panel today that he warned Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, about inappropriate Foley conduct with pages in 2003 or possibly the previous year.

Palmer has denied Fordham’s account.

Trandahl, the top administrative officer of the House, got his job from Hastert.

“As to Congressman Thomas M. Reynolds, the speaker said, ‘If he had mentioned this problem to me, I surely would have taken notice,”‘ Weyrich added in an account of a phone conversation with Hastert. Reynolds, R-N.Y., heads the House Republican campaign organization.

Weyrich quoted Hastert as saying Reynolds often came to him with numerous requests to help “incumbents who are in trouble. The speaker said he signs off on the majority of requests and only listens with one ear because the requests are repetitive.”

Hastert “assured me that the statement by Congressman John A. Boehner … that months ago he had told Hastert about the page problem with Congressman Foley, was incorrect,” Paul Weyrich wrote in an e-mail commentary on the issue. Boehner, R-Ohio, is the majority leader.

Hastert says he learned of Foley’s conduct toward pages only on Sept. 29, when the Florida lawmaker abruptly resigned after being confronted by ABC News with copies of lurid instant messages he had sent to a former page. About a year ago, Hastert aides learned from Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., about “over-friendly” but not sexually explicit e-mails from Foley to a former page from Louisiana. The aides did not inform Hastert, according to an account by his office.

In other developments Tuesday:

-A former congressional page said to have received electronic messages from Foley met with FBI agents Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Stephen Jones, an attorney for ex-page Jordan Edmund, said Edmund “answered their questions and cooperated to the fullest” and that he had been contacted Tuesday by the House ethics committee as well.

– Trandahl’s lawyer, Cono Namorato, said Trandahl “will cooperate fully with the FBI and the House ethics committee investigations.”

– Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., chairman of the House Page Board, has relayed to the House Ethics Committee his “interest to cooperate” and appear before the panel whenever requested, Shimkus spokesman Steve Tomaszewski said. Shimkus has not been informed when he should expect to testify.

-Ethics Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., told The Associated Press the panel is “moving to have this done in weeks. … We are moving as quickly as we can.” But he declined to say whether the committee would complete its investigation before the elections on Nov. 7.

Kolbe, who is retiring from Congress at the end of this year, defended his actions in response to the complaint from the former page.

“Some time after leaving the page program, an individual I had appointed as a page contacted my office to say he had received e-mails from Rep. Foley that made him uncomfortable,” Kolbe said in a statement. “I was not shown the content of the messages and was not told they were sexually explicit. It was my recommendation that this complaint be passed along to Rep. Foley’s office and the clerk who supervised the page program. This was done promptly.”

Asked about Kolbe’s statement, Hastert told reporters in Aurora, Ill.: “I don’t know anything more about it. If there’s something that was of a nature that should have been reported or brought forward, then he should have done that.”

Hastert confirmed reports from last week that he had suggested having former FBI Director Louis Freeh head a Capitol Hill inquiry on the page program, but that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi objected.

Foley has acknowledged through his attorney that he is gay but has denied having any sexual contact with minors.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are responding to the ethics committee’s request that they survey aides and former House pages to find out if any of them had knowledge of inappropriate conduct by Foley toward male pages.

Associated Press writers Dennis Conrad in Washington and Shannon Dininny in Yakima, Wash., contributed to this story.

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