Sunday, October 22, 2006

How Foley Skirted Rules To Pursue Relationships

They met on the House floor. He was a 16-year-old political junkie, dressed in the drab navy blazer and gray slacks of a congressional page, rushing phone messages to the members he served. Rep. Mark Foley was tanned and charismatic, a successful politician in his mid-40s willing to joke with him between votes.

They talked perhaps a dozen times. Then at his page graduation ceremony that June, in 2002, he was excited when Foley appeared, uninvited, and dictated his personal e-mail address for the boy to jot in his memory book. "I started contacting him right away," the young man recalled. "I knew a congressman that I . . . talked to online. That was pretty cool."

The messages were innocent at first. But after the young man moved home, he recalled, Foley started asking about "my roommates, if I ever saw them naked." Within months, the congressman was dangling a job offer, "because I was a hot boy," he said. Two years later, when he contacted Foley for advice on D.C. hotels, the congressman wrote back: "You could always stay at my place. I'm always here, I'm always lonely, and I'm always up for oral sex."

The experience of the young man, now 22, who agreed to recount his interactions with Foley on the condition of anonymity, was characteristic of the way the six-term House member pursued the online relationships that, once revealed, forced him to resign from Congress late last month. No one interviewed for this article could cite any instance in which Foley had sex with a former page. Foley's lawyer, David Roth, declined to comment for this story.
Interviews with nearly three dozen former pages suggest that the Florida Republican befriended a wide circle of teenagers during their stints as House pages. Then, shortly before they left or soon afterward, he singled out certain boys to write to -- including four newly confirmed by The Washington Post, in addition to former page Jordan Edmund and one other whose illicit online conversations with Foley ended the congressman's career. Some of the correspondence was brief and casual. But over months or years, if a boy seemed willing to go along, some conversations grew more sexual.

The FBI and Florida officials are conducting criminal investigations into Foley's dealings with former pages.

Foley was able to operate unimpeded for years -- forming the friendships with pages that would be the seeds of online relationships later on -- in spite of rigorous supervision of the teenagers in the congressional page program and a "zero-tolerance" policy for pages and adults who broke its rules.


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