By LEE BOWMAN
Questions about who knew what and when about Rep. Mark Foley’s communications with House pages are now at the heart of a House investigation, while criminal investigators try to determine if any laws were violated by the former congressman in his contacts with minors.
While new details and disclosures continue to emerge, here is a chronology of what’s come out about the matter so far:
1994 — Florida state senator Mark Foley is elected to Congress for the first of six terms as part of a mid-term Republican surge of 54 seats that gives the GOP control of the House for the first time in 40 years.
1995 — Foley hires Kirk Fordham as his chief of staff.
1997 — A few months after completing service as a House page, Tyson Vivyan, now 26, says he started receiving sexually suggestive messages from a person he later guessed was Foley. He told AP he and another former page later visited Foley in his Capitol Hill townhouse, where they drank soft drinks and ate pizza.
1998-2002 — According to ABC News, three former pages who worked for the House during this time have reported "sexual approaches" over the Internet from Foley after their service when they were just 16 or 17.
2001 — A former page who worked in the House in 2001-2002 says a Republican staff member warned pages "to watch out for Congressman Mark Foley." He says they were told "don’t get too wrapped up in him being too nice to you and all that kind of stuff."
2003 — Foley has sexually explicit instant-messaging exchanges with at least one underage boy who had worked as a congressional page. Two other former pages have reported they were aware of suggestive e-mails being sent to "three or four" pages from the 2001-2002 class.
May 2003 — Foley faces questions about his sexual orientation as he campaigns for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida. He eventually drops out of the race.
Fall 2003 — Fordham says he contacted Scott Palmer, chief of staff to House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, with concerns that Foley was getting too close to young male pages and would not stop the inappropriate behavior. He says Palmer met with Foley to discuss the concerns and that Palmer told Hastert about the meeting. Palmer and Hastert deny that the consersation took place.
January 2004 — Fordham leaves Foley’s office and goes to work for Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.
August/Summer 2005 — Foley sends e-mails to a 16-year-old Louisiana boy who had been a page. Among other things, he asked the boy what he wanted for his birthday, talked to the teenager about another boy being "in great shape" and asked the former page to send him a photo.
September 2005 — The Louisiana boy contacts staff in the Washington office of his congressman, Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., about the e-mails from Foley. He forwards them, calling them "sick" 13 times and saying "This freaks me out." Alexander contacts the boy and his parents.
September 2005 — Royal Alexander, the congressman’s chief of staff, calls Tim Kennedy, a staff assistant to Hastert, informing him that he had an e-mail exchange between Foley and a former House page that was of concern, but does not reveal the specific text.
After consulting with Hastert’s counsel, the speaker’s deputy chief of staff, Mike Stokke, meets with Alexander’s chief of staff, but again does not discuss the specific content of the e-mail. Stokke arranges a meeting between then House Clerk Jeff Trandahl and Royal Alexander, but Alexander, citing the boy’s privacy concerns, declined to show the text, and described the exchange only as "over-friendly" and said the family wanted the contact to stop. Trandahl asked if the e-mail exchange was sexual in nature and was assured it was not, according to Hastert’s official account of the handling of the matter.
September 2005 — Trandahl, who is in charge of the page operation, contacts Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., chairman of the House Page Board, to discuss the matter. They set up a meeting with Foley. Shimkus says he only saw portions of two e-mails from Foley that asked the boy how he was doing after Hurricane Katrina and another asking for a photo.
According to Shimkus, Foley told them "he was simply acting as a mentor to the former page and that nothing inappropriate had occurred." Shimkus told Foley to avoid any appearance of impropriety with pages and at the request of the parents, to cease any communication with the young man.
November 2005 — Copies of the e-mail exchanges with the former page and Foley are given to the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, one of several news organizations in Florida and Washington that were given the material around this time.
Times editors assign two reporters to investigate. They talk to the boy and his family, but the family refuses to allow the boy to be identified by name. The paper decides not to publish such serious allegations using an unnamed source.
February-March 2006 — Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., mentions the "existence of e-mails between Foley and the former page from Alexander’s district. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Reynolds say they talked with Hastert about the matter and Boehner says he was told the matter has been addressed. Hastert says he does not recall the conversations about Foley.
Reynolds recalls telling Hastert that the actions by the Clerk and Shimkus had resolved the matter.
May 10, 2006 — After personally urging Foley to seek a seventh term, Reynold’s political action committee, TOMPAC, donates $5,000 to Foley’s re-election campaign.
July 21, 2006 — The Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, sends the suggestive e-mails via the Internet to a special agent in the FBI’s Washington field office. CREW said it received those e-mails that same day from a "third party" who had received them from a congressional staffer. The FBI later says these e-mails did not appear to be a criminal matter.
July 27, 2006 — Foley’s political action committee donates $100,000 to the Republican congressional campaign committee chaired by Reynolds.
July 27, 2006 — Foley, as co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, attends a signing ceremony at the White House for the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which he helped author.
Sept. 28, 2006 — ABCNews.com publishes e-mails between Foley and the former page from Louisiana. Other news organizations that have been given the material move on the story, which Foley initially dismisses as a smear effort by his Democratic rival, Tim Mahoney, who calls for an investigation.
Sept. 29, 2006 — ABC and Internet blogs publish sexually explicit instant messages between Foley and several former pages. Foley abruptly sends a letter of resignation to Hastert, who initially says he was not aware until the week before of allegations of improper behavior by Foley. Pressed by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the House votes to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee, which is to issue a preliminary report within 10 days.
Sept. 30, 2006 — Hastert issues a detailed account of how House officials handled the e-mail complaint about Foley from the Louisiana page. It concludes: "No one was ever made aware of any sexually-explicit e-mail or text messages at any time."
Hastert and other House Republican leaders issue a statement calling Foley’s communications with former pages "an obscene breach of trust" and call for the House Page Board and the House Ethics Committee to take additional actions.
Oct. 1, 2006 — Hastert, in a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that notes Foley is now out of the reach of Congress to investigate, asks for the Justice Department to examine "Mr. Foley’s conduct with current and former House pages to determine to what extent any of his actions violated federal law." The FBI confirms it is "conducting an assessment to see if there has been a violation of federal law." In a second letter, Hastert asks Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to see if any state laws were broken, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement later confirms it has started an inquiry.
Oct. 2, 2006 — Hastert comes under increasing criticism from inside the GOP and various conservative organizations for how the Foley matter was handled, and faces calls that he resign. After meeting with Shimkus to discuss possible additional safeguards for pages, including a hotline to report misconduct against them, Hastert says: "Congressman Foley duped a lot of people. I’ve known him for all the years he has worked in this House and he deceived me, too."
Oct. 2 — Foley, through his attorney, announces that he has checked himself into a rehab facility "for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems."
Oct. 2 — CREW sends a letter to the inspector general of the Justice Department requesting an investigation into why the FBI did not initiate an investigation of Foley’s contacts with minors until now.
Oct. 3 — Foley’s attorney, David Roth, tells a news conference that Foley, when he was a child, was molested by a member of the clergy and that he is gay. But he denies that Foley had any sexual contact with a minor.
Oct. 4 — Fordham resigns from Reynolds’ staff and tells reporters he had conversations with House leaders about Foley’s behavior before January 2004.
Oct 4 — The Justice Department orders the House to preserve Foley’s computer files as negotiations with House counsel continues over FBI access to legislative files. There are reports that the FBI has begun interviewing former pages and several have hired lawyers.
Oct. 5 — The House Ethics Committee meets on the Foley case, sets up a four-member investigative panel, and votes to issue 44 subpoenas to witnesses and for documents in a probe to determine who knew about Foley’s conduct and what was done about it.
Hastert vows not to resign, saying "I haven’t done anything wrong" but says "the bottom line is responsibility." He added, during a news conference outside his Illinois district office: "I don’t know who knew what when … if it’s members of my staff that didn’t do the job, we will act appropriately."
(Contact Lee Bowman at BowmanL(at)SHNS.com)