Friday, October 13, 2006

Former Foley staffer testifies before ethics panel

WASHINGTON - They were talking sex again on Capitol Hill as one of the key witnesses in the Mark Foley page-boy scandal testified Thursday before the House ethics committee.

Kirk Fordham, once Foley's chief of staff, detailed under oath his contention that he warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office about Foley's interest in boys years ago.

Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned his House seat last month after his lurid e-mail and instant message chats with ex-pages surfaced. Hastert says his office first heard of one "over-friendly" e-mail last fall, and he believed it had been dealt with.

Fordham's testimony was secret, but his lawyer said he would stand by claims that he sounded the alarm in 2003. "Mr. Fordham was cooperative and will continue to be throughout the investigations," attorney Tim Heaphy said after they spent some four hours behind closed doors.

Fordham resigned his most recent position as chief of staff to Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., after he tried unsuccessfully to talk ABC News out of releasing some of Foley's more explicit missives.

Fordham has not blamed Reynolds in the Foley mess, but the powerful head of the National Republican Congressional Committee is in danger of losing his re-election bid amid revelations he was one of the first leaders to learn of a Foley e-mail exchange.

Reynolds says he passed the disturbing messages on to Hastert last spring. Fordham's testimony was expected to focus on three top Hastert staffers who deny that Fordham complained.

Also Thursday, one of two Republicans on the board overseeing pages testified. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said that, unlike Rep. John Shimkus, who admits talking with Foley, she knew nothing.

Shimkus, R-Ill., is expected to testify Friday.


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