Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foley -- Getting the Facts Straight

I'm having a difficult getting my facts straight with regard to this Rep. Foley fiasco. I'm particularly concerned with the behavior of the House Republican leadership, particular Rep. Hastert, a man that I have had great respect for. If he has covered up in any way for Foley's behavior, my respect for him will disappear in an instant.

But, facts can be elusive, and there are lots of different stories and opinions floating around, masquerading as facts. I'm going to present here the facts as well as I understand them. If you have corrections, additions, or clarifications, please add them in.

Once we get the facts straight, we can start to make sense of the analysis, and what our response should be.

* As far back as 2001, pages were getting "internal warnings" about Foley. I have no idea what the content or nature of these warnings was.

* In 2003, Rep. Foley had an IM exchange with a page, attempting to set up a sexual encounter. Nobody in the government or the media knew about this exchange until last Friday.

* In 2005, Rep. Foley had an email conversation with a page, which was not sexual but was troublingly personal (asking for a picture, etc.).
- The boy's parents knew about the exchange, and Rep. Hastert's office was contacted.
- The emails were also leaked to two newspapers in Florida.
- The boy's parents (according to Hastert) asked that the situation not be followed up
- Hastert spoke with Foley about the incident, accepted Foley's word that it was not a problem, and asked Foley not to have any further contact with the boy.
- The Florida newspapers found the language to be inconclusive, and opted not to print the information.

* Since Friday, I understand that other conversations have come to light, but the two referenced above are the ones constantly and predominantly referred to, so I'm not clear what content is in the other emails or messages.

Primary Sources:
AP, Oct 2
NY Daily News

What else is out there that I'm missing?



Kevin said...

Various timelines are popping up. Several of those google results indirectly refer to Think Progress which provides a rough timeline with annotations to source material.

Wikipedia's Mark Foley scandal page also appears to be developing with annotations and a wider range of topics, though it doesn't include a nice bullet-point timeline.

From the above, the nature of the internal warning of pages were:
Several current and former congressional employees recalled Foley approaching young male pages at parties, going back many years. According to one page, who served in summer 1995, "Almost the first day I got there I was warned. It was no secret that Foley had a special interest in male pages." He added that Foley had on several occasions asked him out for ice cream.[5] Another page, Matthew Loraditch, stated that when he served in 2001 pages had been warned to "watch out for Congressman Mark Foley." [6] Other pages have disputed this recollection and Loraditch himself later clarified by stating that he had not been warned. Rather, he had been told informally by a supervisor that "Foley was a bit odd or flaky." That advice did not indicate "in tone or otherwise" that Foley was dangerous or needed to be avoided.[7]

Regarding your timeline, I don't think Hastert spoke directly to Foley about the incident. It looks like it was House Page Committee chairperson, Rep. John Shimkus who interviewed Foley and told him "to cease all contact with this former house page."

It looks like the "new" IMs are also from 2003. (New Foley Instant Messages; Had Internet Sex While Awaiting House Vote, October 03, 2006 1:22 PM, Brian Ross and Maddy Sauer Report)


Kevin said...

Sorry, I messed up the Wikipedia link. Here it is: Mark Foley scandal.

Mark Congdon said...


Thanks for the links. That was helpful information. In general it seemed to confirm the rough outline of events as I understood them, though in a markedly partisan way.

I came across a comment on another blog today, where the commenter said that the person that Foley did the sexual IM messages with (the ones that nobody knew about until last Friday) was, at the time of the messages, no longer working for Foley, and also no longer a minor. I had certainly not come across that (seemingly important) clarification anywhere else... can any of you confirm it?

Also, I had to do a bit of looking to find the original (or as close to original as we're going to get) source of the email conversation Foley had with the page who was a minor (at least in some jurisdictions) at the time of the communications. Here's a link. Don't worry... nothing even remotely explicit is involved.


Kevin said...


Yeah, Think Progress is partisan :), and the Wikipedia entries keep evolving and shifting. I think it all began on that StopSexPredators blog you link, which has caused hubbub amongst the conservative bloggers regarding its backer and the timing. Much of the new news seems to be coming in through Brian Ross at ABC News.

As I understand it, the conversations occurred after their stint as pages, starting as young as 16 years old and continuing (at least) through the age of 18.

Wikipedia's Mark Foley scandal has a section describing The ages of Majority and Consent. A minor is always less than 18, but the age of consent, dictated by statutory rape laws, is 16 in D.C.

Given the outcome of the previous Congressional page sex scandal in 1983, I'm curious to see if Foley can or will be legally prosecuted for anything.


steviepinhead said...

This sorry episode and its ramifications continue to perk along, emitting distracting noise and veils of fog like a leaky steam engine.


steviepinhead said...

I don't know if anyone else is having the same problem, but none of the "side-bar" stuff is showing up on my screen: archives, hot threads, etc.


Mark Congdon said...


The sidebar stuff works for me. Is it possibly getting pushed down to the bottom of the page for some reason?


Mark Congdon said...

I'm following up on this, as more information has developed. The Wikipedia page you linked to, Kevin, has been very helpful. Thanks!

That Wikipedia page has a section titled "Knowledge Before September 2006". That's the most pertinent section to the ongoing political discussion. Here's my summary of what I find there.

* Kurt Wolfe, a journalist for The Advocate, knew that Foley was having inappopriate sexual communications with a minor as far back as 1996. He notified Foley's office, and (it would appear) nobody else. Odd.

* Various Congressional staffers and former pages have said there were general warnings about Foley, but I have not seen evidence that there was anything actionable.

* Rep. Jim Kolde in 2000 was shown messages that a page received from Foley that the page felt were inappropriate. There are discrepancies in the descriptions of those messages, and we do not have details with which to know what exactly "inappropriate" meant.

* Some time in 2002 or 2003, Foley attempted to gain access to the pages' dorm. The House Clerk notified Foley's chief of staff about the matter. Foley's chief of staff contacted Hastert's chief of staff to tell him about Foley's behavior in general, but apparently not mentioning the dorm incident. Hastert's chief of staff denies that the communication happened, at least in the way that Foley's (former) chief of staff is reporting it. That is one odd chain of communications, there.

So, to recap so far... we've got some vague unspecified sleaziness on Foley's part, but nobody (except, it appears, that one reporter) knows anything specific that Foley has done wrong.

* In 2005, a series of emails between Foley and a young man in Louisiana began circulating. Two newspapers in Florida saw them. A number of members of Congress saw them. There was nothing explicit in them, though they were inappropriately friendly. Rep. Alexander from Louisiana spoke to the young man's parents, who requested that the matter not be pursued beyond asking Foley to cut off communications. This was done on an informal basis.

Again, to recap, at this point nobody (except that one reporter from years earlier, who appears not to have told anyone) knew anything concrete that Foley had done wrong. What action could anyone have taken at that time? It is possible that an inquiry could have been performed, but it seems unlikely that anything would have been uncovered (noone else who had inquired, such as the various media organizations, had found anything concrete).

As far as I can tell, that's it. In the last week, under the weight of rampant misconceptions and mischaracterizations and drastically exaggerated responses, various members of House leadership have stumbled over themselves, contradicting themselves, probably trying to avoid the limelight. From what I can tell, at least a few of them have lied at one time or another this week, as they have told contradictory stories about who knew what, when.

But, taking the worst case scenario for any and all of them, the worst I can imagine is that they could have done a (probably fruitless) inquiry last year. Beyond that, I see nothing remotely culpable.

Now... the reporter who knew about inappropriate messages from Foley to a minor a decade ago, and chose to only inform Foley himself of that knowledge? That guy has some explaining to do. Why would he inform Foley, of all people? Did he expect Foley to turn himself in? Bizarre.

And who found these IM messages? They were apparently consenting messages with a non-minor. Did that person volunteer them, in an effort to get back at Foley for something? Who did that person give them to, and how did they end up at ABC? How long did ABC have them before it released the news? I would be very interested to know the provenance of those details.

And, finally, I would like to correct one thing, just because I have heard it stated so often it is really getting on my nerves. There has been no report of child sex abuse here. Pages must be at least 16 years old, and it is legal in Washington, DC to have sex with a consenting 16-year-old. It is not illegal for Foley to sexually proposition pages, or even to have sex with them (something he claims never to have done). The objectionable issue here is not child molestation, but abuse of power. It is improper for Foley to have a sexual relationship with current or recent-past pages in the same way that it is improper for a boss to have a sexual relationship with a subordinate. That's the issue. Child molestation doesn't even come into play.


bcongdon said...

I hope I'm stating the obvious when I say that the Foley "mess" and GOP "crisis" is a creation of the left-leaning media. They (i.e., the fellow travelers running ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Time, Newsweek, NY Times, LA Times, and the Wash Post) decide what is "news" and they both hype and ignore what suits them. It's not a conspiracy -- it's just a few dozen people who have similar political views and who know how to ignore/trivialize/demonize non-conforming views. What amazes me is how many ordinary folks take the judgments of these people at face value, as if we really should panic when they say panic and sleep when they say sleep.

For example, for those with short memories, outstanding conservative senator Jesse Helms was pilloried in all the news outlets mentioned above back in 1995 when he stated that if Bill Clinton visited his state he would need a bodyguard. See http://www.taemag.com/issues/

Shocking! The media juggernaut jumped on it. Helms said Clinton needs a bodyguard! He was recommending folks ATTACK THE PRESIDENT!!! The NY Times called for Helms to step down from his leadership positions (much as Mr. Hastert is being railroaded today). For those who remember, there was a continuous drumbeat tarring Helms along with all conservatives as dangerous unpatriotic wackos. The talking heads said this was a perfect example of why we need more gun control. The sheeple listening bleated approvingly and Helms was squelched as a party spokesman.

Fast forward to last Friday, in which a different senator (John Kerry) made a "joke" on Bill Maher's HBO show. Maher was asking about Kerry's vacation and said that Kerry could have combined his vacation with politicking if he had gone to New Hampshire. Here's the exchange:

Maher: You could have went to New Hampshire and killed two birds with one stone.

Kerry: Or, I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.

Here's a link:

Wow. Now, that's a little more explicit than suggesting Bush might need a bodyguard. Was this supposed to be funny?

Now, try holding your breath while you wait for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Time, Newsweek, NY Times, LA Times, or the Wash Post to say a word about Kerry's comment, much less yammer on at length about dangerous liberals and whether Kerry should resign.

So why do we care what they say about Hastert?


Mark Congdon said...


Welcome to the blog!

Personally, I don't care what the media says about Hastert. I do, however, care about the facts. I do care if Hastert knew that Foley was molesting children and chose to cover it up for political expediency.

And so, I examine the facts, and in the end, from what I can tell, determine that nothing of the sort is going on.

I don't see any sign that anybody in this conversation is anything remotely like a "sheeple" to the media, so I guess you're preaching to the choir. :)

On the other hand, I don't think you stated it quite right when you said "the Foley 'mess' ... is a creation of the left-leaning media". I might be able to buy it if you were referring to "the Hastert 'mess'"... but Foley quite certainly got himself into a mess, and no media creation was necessary.


steviepinhead said...

Thanks, Mark--everything is copacetic today, technically speaking.

Thanks also for the summary.

I'm not jumping on the "railroad Hastert" bandwagon--I'll let the investigation play out. To date, as I think your summary indicates, there is nothing like a "smoking gun" as far as what Hastert knew and when he knew it.

I think I share your concern--if I've rightly grokked it--that there seems not to have been an effective communication system for collecting and considering information of the kind that at some level and to some degree (NOT necessarily involving a crime, much less child molestation) seems to have been circulating and surfacing.

In my view, Congress stands, or should stand, in loco parentis as to its pages. Accordingly, there ought to have been an effective, "complainant"-friendly system in place to deal with a situation of this kind.

Such a system would NOT that any dubious half-baked rumor should immediately find its way to the front page of the media--leftist-leaning or not. To the contrary, any initial investigation (while preserving the privacy of the complainant), should also respect the privacy of the "accused" until a certain quantum of corroborating information has been turned up. The details--and cross-cutting safeguards--of any such system would need to be carefully crafted.

My primary concern--at this point, at least--is that, if there was anything like such a system, it hasn't been clearly described, and the lines of communication and responsibility--who was responsible to do what, with what kind of information--seem either to have broken down or never seem to have been constructed in the first place.

No human institution can be expected to be perfect, and there's always going to be a "first time" incident that reveals where the (most recently discovered) unplugged gaps in the system are.

Nor--again, up to this point--do I necessarily consider the apparent lack or inadequacy of a page-protection system entirely a Republican problem. If some of the reports turn out to have something significant behind them, then Foley's problematic behavior may go back well into the last decade. This is a Congressional oversight problem--like several other of Congress's "self-policing" ethical inadequacies--that both sides of the aisle have allowed to develop, and which both sides of the aisle--and those of us who put them there--need to seriously address.

Unfortunately, the last month in the run-up to the mid-term elections is probably NOT the time in which any such addressing is going to meaningfully occur.

Mark Congdon said...


I couldn't agree with you more.

Now, if we could only come up with a way to elect more people to office who are more committed to real change and less committed to political cliques and re-election.

There are so many intertwined problems at play here... but I think the best way to start changing the discussion is to change the way we vote. Allow people to vote for lesser-known candidates, while also casting a vote for their less-desired (but better than the alternative) candidate, and some of the voices that are currently marginalized might begin to be heard. Who knows... maybe that will raise the diversity and quality of dialog about complicated issues in our society.

Kevin, a couple of years ago on my Xanga blog, linked to a couple of proposed voting systems that would move this direction. Thanks, Kevin. :)


steviepinhead said...

Scientific American also ran an article discussing alternative voting systems sometime in the last year or so--things like allowing you to rank the candidates from first to last. Some corporate boards are elected by "cumulative" voting (I may have the word wrong), where you get a number of votes multiplied by the number of candidates, and you can throw all your votes behind one candidate, or spread them around...

America seems though to have a cultural bias for a distinct winner-take-all, losers-out approach. For the superiority of an alternative system to make itself apparent, you'd probably have to start somewhere other than national offices--state, county, municipal, port district, utility district!

Mark Congdon said...


I agree... and, in a small way, that's starting to happen here in the States with Instant Run-off Voting. In fact, I understand that Pierce County has IRV on the ballot this fall, to be used for county offices... that's right next door to us. If I see any candidate advocating such a system that might be able to make that happen in Clark County where I live, I'll back them up in a heartbeat.


Kevin said...

I agree with Stevie, et al., that when looked at in perspective, Foley is a leaky steam engine. errr... his nauseating story is distracting, and perhaps intended to be so, as Brad mentions.

Can we prevent or sooner curtail similar scenarios from occurring? Which part? Congressmen having sex with 16+ year old boys? or their making unwelcome advances to former pages? And how else do you get to the point of having sex with a wide variety of young men without issuing some unwelcome advances? :/

At what point should Foley have been "caught" and what should the punishment be for making such unwelcome advances? Verbal warnings? Check. The most effective solution might be public exposure, particularly for a Republican, which the media over time apparently declined until recently when there existed plenty of evidence, including lascivious consensual correspondence.

I'm somewhat curious how Studds and Crane came to intimately know their pages and whether any unwelcome advances were committed by them. I wonder if Foley can be charged with sexual harassment?

I think some Republicans are becoming disenchanted with the lack of cohesion in Congress and their drifting from Conservative ideals. Even before Foley, there was growing discontent with Hastert, et al..

Thanks for finding and linking my old post on IRV and Condorcet, Mark. I recall my interest in alternative voting methods, but it was like reading someone else's post. :) I agree that there is a lot that can be done to improve our government and reduce corruption, that is sadly not being addressed.


Douglas said...

It was written that "Pages must be at least 16 years old, and it is legal in Washington, DC to have sex with a consenting 16-year-old. It is not illegal for Foley to sexually proposition pages, or even to have sex with them (something he claims never to have done). The objectionable issue here is not child molestation, but abuse of power. It is improper for Foley to have a sexual relationship with current or recent-past pages in the same way that it is improper for a boss to have a sexual relationship with a subordinate. That's the issue. Child molestation doesn't even come into play."


According to this "international AIDs charity", the age of consent for traveling US citizens is 18. Since the pages are not legal residents of DC, then I would assume this would apply to them as well, overriding the age of 16 rule for DC residents.

So, maybe child molestation is a valid concern in this situation.


Douglas said...

Also, even if the law for traveling US citizens does not apply within the US (it may only apply outside our borders), the fact that Foley was a Senator and thus arguably in a position of power over the child, would potentially place him in a "Significant relationship" similar to scout leaders, teachers, etc. This raises the age of consent in DC to 18.

Whatever the case, I say "Hang the bastard!"


steviepinhead said...

Also, it sounds like at least some of the communications or transactions with the pages (or recent ex-pages) were happening between Foley (in state or district A) and the youths (in home-state B).

Conceivably, this could trigger application of the victim's home-state laws, or even such federal laws as relate to interstate transactions for immoral purposes...