Canton Repository

October 4, 2006

Regula, Strickland weigh in on scandal

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Rep. Ralph Regula on Tuesday expressed shock over sexually explicit messages sent to at least one teenager by a former congressman, but he stopped short of backing calls for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, was responding to revelations that ex-Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, sent electronic communications that have been described as ranging from “inappropriate” to sexually explicit to former House pages going back at least to 2003.

“I’m not going to pass judgment because not all the facts are in,” Regula said. But he added that House leaders “maybe — should have been more aggressive in pursuing the issue.”

He applauded Hastert’s call for a Justice Department investigation of Foley, which Democratic lawmakers also support.

Another area lawmaker, Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, faulted House leaders for an inadequate response last fall to a complaint they received about Foley.

But Strickland, who is running for governor, also stopped short of calling for Hastert to step down unless there is evidence that the speaker “had information that could have put young pages in jeopardy and did not take appropriate action.

“I think we need to find out what he knew and when he knew it before we can make that decision,” he said.

Other Ohio lawmakers, including Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, and his opponent in the Senate race, Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, also have expressed disgust with the revelations about Foley.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath, who is scheduled to plead guilty next week to conspiracy in a lobbyists’ bribery scheme, is reported to be undergoing alcohol rehabilitation in an undisclosed facility and was unavailable for comment.

Regula said he was stunned by the revelations, which were first reported last week and led to Foley’s abrupt resignation Friday.

“It was a total surprise to me,” he said.

Regula did not serve on any committees with Foley and said he did not know him well.

Strickland said when Hastert’s staff learned about a complaint from a former page’s parents about an e-mail their son received from Foley, “they should have taken immediate action to have made sure that these pages, these young people, were not subjected to this kind of harassment or inappropriate behavior.”

Regula said he doesn’t have enough details to say whether Hastert should step down.

“Until it’s clear that he (Hastert) was derelict in his responsibilities as speaker, it shouldn’t be considered at the moment until the evidence is clear that he did not fulfill his duty or responsibility as speaker,” he said. In an accusation that Democratic critics are holding Republicans to a higher standard, Regula said he has to “smile to hear their protestations when I remember very well the way in which they handled Gerry Studds,” a Massachusetts Democrat who was censured by the House after admitting to an affair with a 17-year-old male page in 1983.

“Obviously, they didn’t kick him out,” Regula said.

Studds, who enjoyed the page’s support, went on to win five more terms in the House.

In the past, Regula has sponsored students from his district who served as pages, but none in the last three years. “I think generally it’s a good program,” he said. “I’ve had a number of pages over the years and they really have been enthusiastic about the experience. I’ve never had anything but very positive feedback from the ones that we’ve had.”