Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley exchanged personal emails with a 16-year-old former male page for a month, asking how old the young man was, if he wanted a photo, and requesting a photo.
Reports of the emails have rocked the House, bringing back memories of a scandal involving two members of Congress who had sex with two Congressional pages in the 1980s.
While Foley denied doing anything improper, sources say the Capitol Hill Police department is now looking into the Congressman’s behavior.
In 1983, the House censured Illinois Republican Congressman Phil Crane and Garry Studds (D-Mass) after both admitted having sex with pages. Crane’s lover was female while Studds’ was male. Crane, who cried on the floor of the House and asked his colleagues to forgive him, lost his re-election campaign the following year.
Studds, however, refused to admit any guilt and became the first member of the House to openly admit his homosexuality while saying he did nothing wrong. He served several more terms before retring.
Amie Parnes reports:
The re-election campaign of Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., angrily denied an online media report Thursday that questioned a series of personal e-mails the congressman sent to a 16-year-old former congressional page.
ABC News reported that Foley sent the male former page a series of e-mails from the congressman’s personal AOL account asking the teenager how old he was, what he wanted for his birthday and requesting a photo of him.
Concerned about the e-mails, the teenager forwarded them to a staffer on Capitol Hill, ABC reported. "Maybe it’s just me being paranoid but seriously," the former page was quoted by ABC as writing in an e-mail to the staffer. "This freaked me out."
As of late Thursday, the office of the clerk at the U.S. House of Representatives had received no formal complaint against the six-term congressman.
"This is the first we’ve heard of it," said Salley Collins, a House clerk spokeswoman.
Jason Kello, a Foley spokesman, acknowledged the congressman exchanged e-mails with the former page for about a month, but described the communication as "casual and nonchalant."
The e-mails began after the 16-year-old had completed the congressional page program in Washington and had returned to his hometown, Kello said.
Before leaving Washington, the page gave Foley a handwritten thank-you note that included his e-mail address, Kello said. Several weeks later, Foley e-mailed the former page and began the month-long exchange, Kello said.
"Glad your (sic) home safe and sound," Foley wrote in one e-mail. "We don’t go back into session until Sept 5…so it’s a nice long break…I am back in Florida now…it’s nice here…been raining today…it sounds like you will have some fun over the next few weeks…how old are you now?" In another e-mail, Foley wrote: "well do miss DC…It’s raining here but 68 degrees so who can argue…did you have fun at your conference…what do you want for your birthday coming up…what stuff do you like to do."
In a third e-mail, Foley wrote: "how are you weathering the hurricane…are you safe…send me an email pic of you as well…"
Kello said the congressman keeps resumes and pictures of people who want letters of recommendation or future jobs.
Asked whether the teenager had expressed interest in a job in Foley’s office, Kello said no.
Kello said the e-mail exchange between Foley and the congressional page was "purely innocent" and called it "a smear campaign" by Foley’s opponent in November’s election, businessman Tim Mahoney.
"It’s character assassination," Kello said. "The e-mails in question were a response to a handwritten thank-you letter from a former page.
"There have not been any allegations made by anyone except Tim Mahoney and the Democrats who are attempting to misrepresent a series of innocent communications to prop up a falling political campaign," Kello added.
In a statement, Mahoney’s campaign said, "the seriousness of these allegations goes far beyond the tit for tat of a political campaign."
"Tim Mahoney does not believe Congressman Foley’s sexual orientation, whatever it may be, should be an issue in this campaign," said Jessica Santillo, a spokesman for the Mahoney campaign. "However, the serious nature of the allegations in question should be reviewed by the appropriate authorities."
(Contact Amie Parnes at ParnesA(at)shns.com)