The Credibility Gap

Posted: October 7, 2006 in 2006 Elections, Beltway Drama

A few days ago, I wrote about how Kirk Fordham, sensing he was being made the fall guy by House Republicans for the Mark Foley scandal, dropped a massive bombshell on Dennis Hastert’s office.

Despite claims by senior congressional aide Kirk Fordham that he notified House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office more than two years ago about possible inappropriate contact between former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and underage congressional pages, the Speaker’s office insists it did nothing wrong in the way it handled the investigation.

“That never happened,” Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean told ABC News.

But Fordham, who resigned as Foley’s chief of staff to work for another member of the GOP leadership, Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., said that as far back as 2003, Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, had been told that Foley was too friendly with pages. According to Fordham, Palmer spoke to Foley about the matter.

Neither Foley nor Palmer could be reached for comment, yet Hastert’s office disputes the account.

Here’s the reaction of Scott Palmer, Hastert’s chief of staff:

“What Kirk Fordham said did not happen.”

Palmer might want to revise that statement and get a good lawyer, if the story in today’s Washington Post is correct.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s chief of staff confronted then-Rep. Mark Foley about his inappropriate social contact with male pages well before the speaker said aides in his office took any action, a current congressional staff member with personal knowledge of Foley and his behavior with pages said yesterday.

The staff member said Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, met with the Florida Republican at the Capitol to discuss complaints about Foley’s behavior toward pages. The alleged meeting occurred long before Hastert says aides in his office dispatched Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.) and the clerk of the House in November 2005 to confront Foley about troubling e-mails he had sent to a Louisiana boy.

The staff member’s account buttresses the position of Foley’s onetime chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, who said earlier this week that he had appealed to Palmer in 2003 or earlier to intervene, after Fordham’s own efforts to stop Foley’s behavior had failed. Fordham said Foley and Palmer, one of the most powerful figures in the House of Representatives, met within days to discuss the allegations.

Palmer said this week that the meeting Fordham described “did not happen.” Timothy J. Heaphy, Fordham’s attorney, said yesterday that Fordham is prepared to testify under oath that he had arranged the meeting and that both Foley and Palmer told him the meeting had taken place. Fordham spent more than three hours with the FBI on Thursday, and Heaphy said that on Friday he contacted the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to offer his client’s cooperation.

“We are not preparing to cooperate. We are affirmatively seeking to,” Heaphy said.

Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean declined to directly comment on the second House staff member’s assertion, saying that it is a matter for a House ethics committee investigation. “The Standards Committee has asked that no one discuss this matter because of its ongoing investigation,” Bonjean said.

Palmer might also want to think about updating his resume and cleaning out his desk.

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