WASHINGTON - The House ethics committee on
Friday criticized House Speaker Dennis Hastert,
Rep. John Shimkus and other Republicans for
failing to protect congressional pages from
inappropriate advances from Rep. Mark Foley.
However, as it ended a two-month
investigation of the scandal that contributed to
the GOP defeat in November, the panel found no
evidence that current lawmakers violated House
rules. The committee's report said it was
"disturbed" by a pattern of conduct by many "to
remain willfully ignorant of the potential
consequences of former Representative Foley's
conduct with respect to House pages."
No one will be reprimanded.
The ethics panel has no jurisdiction over
Foley, a Florida Republican, because he resigned
in September after news reports revealed he had
sent sexually explicit computer messages to teen
pages. There is an ongoing criminal
investigation of Foley in Florida.
Hastert, of Plano, and Shimkus, who
represents part of Springfield, were at the
center of the controversy. After learning of
Foley's contacts with a former page, Shimkus,
who heads the House Page Board, decided to
quietly confront Foley on his own last year
without notifying the two other lawmakers on the
House Clerk Jeff Trandahl told the committee
that when he approached Shimkus, he
characterized Foley as a "ticking time bomb,"
according to the report.
"At a minimum, Shimkus had an obligation to
learn more facts regarding
the e-mails before concluding that he should
handle the matter himself without informing the
other members of the Page Board or seeking their
input," the ethics panel concluded in its
The committee said it "was not persuaded" by
Shimkus' argument "that the Page Board did not
have jurisdiction over the matter because it
involved a former page rather than a current
one." When Shimkus met with Foley, he had not
seen the sexually explicit computer messages,
which did not become public until September. The
portions of e-mails reviewed by Shimkus were
viewed as inappropriate but were not sexually
Despite Shimkus' denials, the report
indicates he did take politics into
consideration when he decided not to inform the
page board's Democratic member, Rep. Dale Kildee
of Michigan. After Foley resigned, Shimkus told
fellow Republican page board member Rep. Shelley
Moore Capito of West Virginia "that he believed
that he had done the right thing in 2005 based
on the information he had, but added words to
the effect of 'Dale's (Rep. Kildee) a nice guy,
but he's a Democrat and I was afraid it would be
blown out of proportion."'
Shimkus told the ethics committee that the
statement was made in frustration over the
timing of the release of the sexually explicit
messages just prior to the election.
Shimkus has said he was respecting the
request for privacy by the parents of the former
page when he chose not to notify other
The ethics panel concluded that Shimkus
should have demanded copies of all relevant
e-mails or other documents, if not before, then
after he confronted Foley.
The report said "confronting a member in such
a matter without having access to all relevant
information was imprudent." But it concluded
that "the action did not constitute conduct
failing to reflect creditably on the House."
"The family's desire for privacy could have
been accommodated while still investigating the
matter more aggressively," the panel stated.
In a statement issued by his office, Shimkus
said "the report confirms what I have said all
along. I acted upon the situation with limited
information. I wish I had done more and, given
more information, I would have.
"But the report confirms my honesty and
integrity. My decisions were based solely on
deference to the former page's family." He
declined to discuss the matter further.
The scandal also raised questions about when
Hastert knew about Foley's inappropriate contact
with pages and whether his top aides did
anything to stop it.
The panel concluded that Hastert was told, at
least in passing, about the e-mails by both
Majority Leader John Boehner and Rep. Tom
Reynolds last spring. Hastert said he didn't
recall those conversations.
Hastert's top aide, Scott Palmer, knew about
the Foley problem in late 2002 or 2003, the
panel concluded. Palmer has denied this.
Hastert's counsel Ted Van Der Meid also
should have done more, according to the
committee, noting that he took "an inexplicable
lack of interest" in the e-mails.
In a brief statement issued by his office,
Hastert said, "I am glad the committee made
clear that there was no violation of any House
rules by any member or staff."
The panel also found that one Democratic aide
had copies of suggestive computer messages by
Foley and gave them to reporters and the
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
That prompted a strong warning that lawmakers
and other House employees "are obligated to
pursue specific and non-specific allegations of
improper interaction" between lawmakers and
"The failure to exhaust all reasonable
efforts to call attention to potential
misconduct involving a member and House page is
not merely the exercise of poor judgment; it is
a present danger to the House pages and to the
integrity of the institution of the House," the
Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,
said she found the ethics committee's
conclusions "deeply troubling."
"As a mother and as a leader in Congress,
protecting the young people who serve as pages
is a high priority," she said.
Dori Meinert can be reached at 202-737-7686
or firstname.lastname@example.org. Joe Cantlupe can
be reached at 202-737-7687 or email@example.com.