The House ethics committee is stepping up its investigation into former Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) relationships with House pages, as Members are being lined up to offer testimony before the panel.
According to sources, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) received an invitation Wednesday to appear before the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, but a specific date was not disclosed.
A spokesman for Boehner reiterated that he will cooperate fully with the investigation.
“Mr. Boehner welcomes the opportunity and looks forward to meeting with them and providing any information that might be helpful to their inquiry,” said spokesman Kevin Madden.
Additionally, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) will appear before the ethics committee next week. Adam Terry, a spokesman for Alexander, said he will “voluntarily” offer testimony Wednesday.
The Louisiana Republican will discuss his role in 2005 in informing House Republican leaders that a former page — sponsored by his office — had been made uncomfortable by an e-mail exchange with Foley that was characterized as “over-friendly.”
The public revelation of that e-mail exchange two weeks ago quickly led to the disclosure of a series of other, more sexually explicit online discussions Foley had with former House pages that prompted him to resign from the House on Sept. 29.
The ethics committee launched a formal investigation of the Foley matter Oct. 5. On Wednesday, lawyers for the committee met separately with Peggy Sampson and Wren Ivester, the majority and minority House page supervisors, respectively. Those discussions were characterized as informal because committee rules dictate that two House Members must be present “to take testimony and receive evidence” as part of a formal investigative subcommittee.
At least two panel members, Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.), were scheduled to return to Capitol Hill today to hear testimony from Kirk Fordham, a central figure in the investigation. Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) also are on the investigative subcommittee.
Fordham was chief of staff to National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) before resigning last week as the scandal unfolded. Fordham previously spent more than a decade working for Foley, and he has offered an account that conflicts with the timeline of events provided by senior aides to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Fordham has said publicly that he warned Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, as early as 2003 on Foley’s interactions with House pages, but Palmer denied he ever spoke to Fordham on that topic.
Palmer, Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Stokke and staff counsel Ted Van Der Meid are expected to be called before the panel. Ron Bonjean, communications director for Hastert, said Wednesday that he did not know whether anyone in the office had been contacted by the committee yet.
Other Members who may be called to offer testimony include retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), but his spokeswoman said Wednesday the office had not been contacted.
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), a co-chairman of the House Page Board, also is expected to appear, but a spokesman did not return calls. Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl also has said he will cooperate with the ethics committee. His attorney did not return calls seeking comment.
A spokesman for Reynolds did not comment directly on whether his boss would appear before the panel, stating only “Congressman Reynolds supports a complete and full investigation and has said so since the beginning.”
Hastings and Berman told reporters last week that the panel had approved nearly four-dozen subpoenas for documents and testimony in the Foley case. They have promised a thorough and timely investigation.
While the ethics panel investigates the Foley case, the House also is considering ways to reform the chamber’s page program.
A spokeswoman for the House Administration Committee said any decisions regarding new orientation procedures for students and administrative changes to the operation of the House page program will be discussed following the completion of the current investigations.
“Everything is operating normally right now. No kids have left the program,” said spokeswoman Salley Collins, whose panel oversees the Office of the Clerk, which manages the page program along with the three-member Page Board.
Along with setting up a toll-free hotline number for current and former pages to report any inappropriate contact they may have experienced, “the Office of the Clerk has reached out to the parents of the current class to one, reiterate the fact that safety and security has been and will continue to be the top priority and two, to inform them of the hotline that has been established,” Collins said. “Supervisors have spoken to the teenagers directly regarding this issue and counselors are available for the students both at the school as well as at the dorms residence.”