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By THOMAS HARGROVE
Here is a cast of characters involved in the political struggle over House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s leadership since Rep. Mark Foley’s resignation last week.
Dennis Hastert — Speaker of the House who Thursday took responsibility for the failure to contain the House page scandal swirling around Foley. But Hastert also said he will not step down. GOP leaders established a toll-free telephone number so pages, former pages and their families can call to report incidents.
"Could we have acted better? Could the page board have acted better? In retrospect, probably yes," Hastert said. "But we acted on what we had."
"I don’t know who knew what when," he added.
George W. Bush — Bush praised Hastert as "a father, a teacher and a coach" who "wants to ensure these children on Capitol Hill are protected." Vice President Dick Cheney said ousting Hastert "wouldn’t make sense."
Kirk Fordham — Former chief-of-staff to National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds. Fordham resigned Wednesday amid charges that he had covered up allegations against Foley last year. Fordham, who once was Foley’s chief of staff, said Thursday he made repeated warnings to top GOP staffers about Foley’s conduct even earlier than 2005, a claim Hastert’s staff denies.
Scott Palmer — Hastert’s chief of staff, Palmer denies Fordham’s claims that he had been told about concerns over Foley’s conduct with House pages as early as 2003. Palmer issued a brief statement Thursday: "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen."
Tom Reynolds — Republican congressman from New York and chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee, a critical GOP funding group for the upcoming election. Reynolds said he personally raised concerns about Foley’s e-mails during a meeting in February or March of this year with Hastert and later disputed Hastert’s claims that the speaker only learned of the issue last week.
Rodney Alexander — a Republican congressman from Louisiana who received complaints in 2005 from the family of a former House page unhappy with a series of e-mails from Foley asking, among other things, for a photograph of the teenager. Alexander’s staff contacted Hastert’s office, asking that Foley stop contact with the youth.
John Shimkus — Republican congressman from Illinois who oversees the House program for pages. He is one of the few GOP leaders known to have read the 2005 e-mails. Shimkus met with Foley last year after the Louisiana youth complained about unwanted contact from Foley. Shimkus ordered Foley to cease all contact with the youth. Foley agreed.
John Boehner — Ohio Republican and House majority leader, Boehner raised the stakes in the debate over Hastert’s future when he said in a radio interview Tuesday that he had expressed concern about Foley in a meeting with the speaker last year. "I believe I talked to the speaker and he told me it had been taken care of," Boehner said. "My position is it’s in his corner, it’s his responsibility."
Roy Blunt — House majority whip from Missouri, Blunt joined a chorus of top conservative House leaders who this week criticized Hastert’s handling of the Foley case. " I think I could have given some good advice here," Blunt said. You have to be curious. You have to ask all the questions you can think of. You absolutely can’t decide not to look into activities because one individual’s parents don’t want you to."
Ron Lewis — Kentucky Republican in a tight re-election race, Lewis cancelled a scheduled invitation for Hastert to attend a fundraise next week, saying the speaker has to clear up the controversy surrounding him.