WASHINGTON – Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other congressional leaders were negligent in their response to early warnings of inappropriate advances toward underage male former pages by former Republican congressman Mark Foley, the House Ethics Committee concluded Friday.

But the ethics panel found no House rules were broken and declined to reprimand or otherwise sanction any current House member or employee for their handling of the matter.

A four-member investigative panel spent nine weeks investigating revelations in late September that Foley repeatedly had sent sexually explicit electronic messages to teenage former pages. Members of the panel declined to answer questions at a press conference releasing the report.

A year earlier, Hastert’s office was informed of a complaint from the parents of a former Louisiana page about an inappropriate e-mail Foley sent to their teen-age son, in which he asked for a photo of the boy. But Foley only received a private warning to cease contact with pages from Page Board Chairman Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill..

Another congressman, Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., said he had forwarded a complaint from another family about inappropriate e-mails from Foley several years earlier. And two congressional leaders said they had raised complaints about Foley’s contact with pages with Hastert and were assured the matter had been handled.

The release of the report on the closing day of the congressional session provides an ironic bookend to 12 years of Republican rule in the House initially won and now lost in large part because of voter anger over abuses of congressional power.

The 1994 Republican Revolution led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrested control of Congress from Democrats on promises to clean up the institution following a series of scandals. At the time, the House Bank scandal showed members of Congress repeatedly and flagrantly bouncing checks without penalty, and a corruption indictment leveled embezzlement charges against the powerful Democratic House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, who was later convicted of mail fraud.

The disclosure of Foley’s lascivious electronic communications and the House leadership’s slow response to early warnings of inappropriate contacts with under-age pages culminated a series of Republican scandals. House Administration Chairman Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who functions as the Capitol’s mayor, pleaded guilty to corruption charges and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Tex., is under indictment for campaign finance violations.

This year, it was the Democrats who promised to clean up the institution and exit polls showed disgust with congressional corruption to be the biggest factor that voters considered in the midterm elections that ousted Republicans from power.



(c) 2006, Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicagotribune.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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ARCHIVE PHOTOS on MCT Direct (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): MARK FOLEY

PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): FOLEY

ARCHIVE GRAPHICS on MCT Direct (from MCT Graphics, 202-383-6064): MARK FOLEY

AP-NY-12-08-06 2146EST


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