WASHINGTON - For Greg Beard, his experience as a
House page in 1988 was a formative one that has
had a long-lasting impact on his life.
"It's a fantastic experience," from the
lifelong friendships that are made to "the
chance to watch history happen," Beard said
As a high school kid from Peoria, "it
certainly broadened my perspective on everything
from my political views to understanding
people's different perspectives."
So Beard, 34, an investor in New York City,
doesn't understand why Rep. Ray LaHood has
proposed terminating the program - at least
temporarily - in light of the disclosure of
lurid Internet messages to young former pages
from former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida.
"What did the page do or what did the program
do to warrant calling for abolishment?" asked
Beard, who was appointed by retired Rep. Bob
He and other congressional page alumni are
speaking out to defend the program, established
in the 1820s, that hires high school juniors to
live, work and study in Washington, instilling
in them a deep commitment to public service,
according to alumni.
LaHood has called for suspending the program
until it can be reviewed, saying Republican
leaders needed to take drastic action to assure
"This program is flawed and it should be
terminated until we can figure out how to fix
it," LaHood said earlier this week, calling it
In Chicago on Thursday, the Peoria Republican
stood by his remarks, saying pages are little
more than errand runners.
"They're not doing substantial work. They're
not doing legislative work," he said. "If we
need errands run for us, we can have our staff
However, his proposal isn't gaining much
support on Capitol Hill. Several lawmakers and
former pages are protesting the idea, saying
LaHood's solution is akin to blaming the victim.
Republican Policy Committee Chairman Adam
Putnam, R-Fla., called it "crazy talk."
"It sends a message that Congress can't
control itself and so we can't be trusted with
children," Putnam told the Capitol Hill
newspaper Roll Call.
"This is a complete overreaction to the
problem at hand," said Putnam spokesman John
Hambel. "My boss thinks it would be a sin to
make them pay for the misbehavior of one former
member of Congress."
Calls to discontinue the page program also
were heard in 1983 when Congress censured former
Rep. Daniel Crane, R-Ill., for having sexual
relations with a female House page and former
Rep. Gerry Studds for having sexual relations
with a male page.
"It is the ultimate example of 'shoot the
victim,'" said Jonathan Turley, a professor at
George Washington University Law School, who was
a page sponsored by the late Rep. Sidney Yates,
D-Ill., in 1977.
"I'm not so sure why LaHood's logic stops
there. We should ban lobbyists from the halls of
Congress because the congressmen obviously have
as much problem with lobbyists as they do with
children," he said.
Turley proposes creation of an independent
page governing board, comprised primarily of
alumni of the program, that would eliminate the
inherent conflict of interest of lawmakers
investigating scandals that could affect their
As a page in 1986, Doug Geiss was assigned to
the House cloakroom where he had close-up view
of then-Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., as he
muscled through major revisions of the tax code.
"What it taught me is that politics is not
just for the chosen few, and because of that,
five years ago, I ended up running for local
office," said Geiss, 36, who chairs the Taylor,
Mich., city council.
"I just want to express a deep love of the
program," he said. "I think it made me a better
Congress gets more from pages than pages
receive from the experience, Turley said.
"The pages remind members of Congress why
they originally went into public service," he
Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, described the page
program as a "wonderful experience" for the
youths he's sponsored, adding that he's heard no
concerns from parents.
Numerous lawmakers are proposing adding
protections to the program. Rep. Shelley Moore
Capito, R-W.Va., who serves on the current House
Page Board, suggested a peer counseling program.
Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Wilmette, would like to
establish a process for investigating misconduct
involving minors and include penalties for not
immediately reporting evidence of such
Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike
Pence of Indiana and Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., have
called for "a zero-tolerance policy" for any
inappropriate interaction between members of the
House and pages.
Pages now have curfews and 24-hour security
in their dorm, which is protected by the U.S.
Capitol Police. Beard and Geiss said they always
"There are going to be bad people wherever
you go, and, I guess, Congress is no exception,"
Copley News Service reporters Paul Krawzak in
Washington and Mike Ramsey in Chicago
contributed to this report. Dori Meinert can be
reached at (202) 737-7686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.