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A Florida Republican Congressman who tried first to lie his way out of a batch of suggestive emails sent to a 16-year-old male Congressional page resigned today rather than face prosecution and an ethics investigation into his conduct.
As DAVID ESPO and JIM KUHNHENN of The Associated Press Report:
Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page.
"I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent," he said in a statement issued by his office.
The two-sentence statement did not refer to the e-mails and gave no reason for Foley’s decision to abruptly abandon a flourishing career in Congress.
Foley, 52, had been a shoo-in for a new term until the e-mail correspondence surfaced in recent days.
His resignation comes less than six weeks before the elections. It was not clear how Republicans would fill his spot on the November ballot.
Campaign aides had previously acknowledged that the Republican congressman e-mailed the former Capitol page five times, but had said there was nothing inappropriate about the exchange. The page was 16 at the time of the e-mail correspondence.
It was not clear what prompted Foley to abruptly decide to give up a successful career in the House.
Foley, who represents an area around Palm Beach County, e-mailed the page in August 2005. The page had worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander (news, bio, voting record), R-La., and Foley asked him how he was doing after Hurricane Katrina and what he wanted for his birthday. The congressman also asked the boy to send a photo of himself, according to excerpts of the e-mails that were originally released by ABC News.
Foley’s aides initially blamed Democratic rival Tim Mahoney and Democrats with attempting to smear the congressman before the election.
The e-mails were posted Friday on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s Web site after ABC News reported their existence. The group asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to investigate the exchange Foley had with the boy, who served as a page for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La.
"The House of Representatives has an obligation to protect the teenagers who come to Congress to learn about the legislative process," the group wrote, adding that the committee, "must investigate any allegation that a page has been subjected to sexual advances by members of the House."
According to the CREW posting, the boy e-mailed a colleague in Alexander’s office about Foley’s e-mails, saying, "This freaked me out." On the request for a photo, the boy repeated the word "sick" 13 times.
He said Foley asked for his e-mail when the boy gave him a thank you card. The boy also said Foley wrote that he e-mailed another page.
"he’s such a nice guy," Foley wrote about the other boy. "acts much older than his age…and hes in really great shape…i am just finished riding my bike on a 25 mile journey now heading to the gym…whats school like for you this year?"
In other e-mails, Foley wrote, "I am back in Florida now…its nice here…been raining today…it sounds like you will have some fun over the next few weeks…how old are you now?" and "how are you weathering the hurricane…are you safe…send me an email pic of you as well."
What the boy wrote to Foley, who is single, wasn’t available. The e-mails were sent from Foley’s personal account, which Foley spokesman Jason Kello says he uses to communicate with many people, including Gov. Jeb Bush.
"They have taken these e-mails out of context in order to smear a good man," said Kello, who described the exchange as "nonchalant, casual." He said Foley didn’t save his e-mails or the boy’s response.
Efforts to reach the boy were unsuccessful, but he told the St. Petersburg Times last November, "I thought it was very inappropriate. After the one about the picture, I decided to stop e-mailing him back." The Times didn’t publish the comments until Friday.
The campaign for Mahoney, who trails Foley in the polls, said it didn’t release the e-mails and wouldn’t make them part of the campaign. In a statement released by Mahoney spokesman Jessica Santillo, the campaign referred to the boy as an "alleged victim."
"The seriousness of these allegations goes far beyond the tit for tat of a political campaign," Santillo said. "This is a matter for the appropriate authorities to investigate. I believe Mr. Foley deserves the benefit of the doubt until these allegations are proven true or false."
Alexander’s chief of staff, Royal Alexander, didn’t return several calls to his cell phone Thursday and Friday seeking comment. Alexander’s press secretary, Adam Terry, didn’t return an e-mail or phone messages. Alexander and Foley wouldn’t talk to reporters while the House was in session Thursday and Foley didn’t return calls to his cell phone.
Kello disputed the claim that the e-mails weren’t distributed by the Mahoney campaign.
"They’ve been shopping this around to reporters for weeks now. They want a headline and that’s it. It’s a political smear campaign of the worst kind," Kello said.
Associated Press Writer Brendan Farrington in Florida contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press