WASHINGTON - Rep. John Shimkus, an Illinois
Republican and key player in his party's
handling of the House page scandal, is scheduled
to appear before the House ethics committee
Shimkus, who represents part of Springfield,
heads the House Page Board and quietly
confronted former Republican Rep. Mark Foley
last fall about his inappropriate contact with a
former House page. Shimkus has said he was
honoring the page's parents request for privacy,
though critics say he should have been more
aggressive and taken the matter to the full,
three-member Page Board, which includes a
The bipartisan ethics panel has launched a
wide-ranging probe of the Foley scandal.
"I don't think there are going to be any
surprises at all," Shimkus' newly hired
attorney, Barry Pollack, said Thursday.
"His role in this is very small, based on
very limited information. I think the media
already knows what he did and why he did it. I
don't expect that anything's going to change as
a result of his willingness and interest to
share what he does know with the committee so
they can get a full picture," said Pollack,
whose recent victories include an acquittal for
a former Enron Corp. executive in a federal
Shimkus declined to be interviewed Thursday,
said his press secretary Steve Tomaszewski.
Shimkus had contacted the committee to offer
his assistance, his aide said, although if he
hadn't done so, he undoubtedly would have gotten
one of the four dozen subpoenas the panel
authorized at its initial meeting last week.
Shimkus also will cooperate with an FBI
investigation, Tomaszewski said.
Despite two weeks of intense media coverage,
many gaps remain in information provided by the
key players, including Shimkus, House Speaker
Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, Hastert aides and
former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl.
Shimkus has said he was informed last
November by Trandahl that the parents of a
former page from Louisiana had complained of
inappropriate e-mails from Foley to their
teenage son. Shimkus said he was given excerpts
of an e-mail, purportedly from the Florida
lawmaker to the 16-year-old page, asking how he
was doing after Hurricane Katrina and requesting
a photo. (The sender and recipient names weren't
Shimkus said that he and Trandahl went
immediately to Foley to ask him about the
e-mail. Many critics have questioned Shimkus'
decision not to inform the other two lawmakers
on the Page Board, who have reacted angrily to
being left out.
While Shimkus and Hastert have given accounts
that are largely consistent, it remains unclear
who decided that only Shimkus and Trandahl would
handle the Foley matter and keep it close to the
vest. Conservative Republicans and Democrats
have accused the Republican leadership of a
political cover-up to protect a safe GOP seat,
which Shimkus and Hastert have denied.
Mike Stokke, a top Hastert aide normally in
charge of political matters, directed the Foley
e-mail complaint to Hastert's counsel Ted Van
Der Meid, who in turn referred the matter to
Trandahl, according to a timeline released by
Hastert's office. Hastert said he wasn't
informed at the time. Trandahl hasn't weighed in
with his account.
Shimkus and Hastert both said in written
statements that they didn't learn of the more
sexually explicit instant messages from Foley to
former pages until Sept. 29, when ABC News
reported them. Foley resigned his House seat the
However, some of Hastert's account has been
challenged by other House members and staffers.
Foley's former chief of staff, Kirk Fordham,
who testified before the ethics committee
Thursday, repeated his previous claim that he
gave information about Foley to Hastert chief of
staff Scott Palmer in 2002 or 2003, Fordham's
attorney said. Palmer has denied it. Two members
of Hastert's leadership team also claim they
spoke to Hastert this past spring about the
Shimkus will be the second lawmaker to appear
before the ethics committee. On Thursday, Rep.
Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the only other
Republican on the House Page Board, spent more
than an hour behind the committee's closed
When she emerged, she repeated that she was
not informed by Shimkus of the Foley matter last
"I want the investigation to go forth quickly
and reach a conclusion," she said.
But longtime congressional observers have
little confidence in the ethics committee's
ability to get to the bottom of the scandal.
"It's a toothless tiger," said Larry Sabato, a
political science professor at the University of
The scandal isn't expected to jeopardize
Shimkus' or Hastert's re-election bids, said
Sabato, who recently returned from Illinois. But
it has jeopardized several other Republican
candidates in less safe districts.
Meanwhile, Shimkus and other central Illinois
lawmakers have been contacting current and
former pages to find out if they had any
inappropriate contact with Foley or any other
member of Congress. All House members have been
asked to survey their former pages at the ethics
As of Thursday, Rep. Ray LaHood's staff has
reached four of his seven former pages, but none
reported any problems, said Joan DeBoer, a
spokeswoman for the Peoria Republican.
Shimkus has sent a letter to former pages
asking them to contact the ethics committee
directly with any complaints, spokesman
Tomaszewski said. Prior to that, Shimkus hadn't
heard of any complaints from his former pages,
Dori Meinert can be reached at 202-737-7686
or dori.meinert@ copleydc.com.