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Foley scandal probe enters 2d full week

Top GOP leaders have yet to testify

WASHINGTON -- With the House page scandal weighing on GOP candidates, an ethics committee investigation will enter its second full week with many important figures still to be interviewed.

The panel has heard from key figures, including a staff aide to disgraced former Representative Mark Foley who said he alerted top House aides years ago about inappropriate behavior by Foley toward pages. It also heard from the chairman of the board that oversees the House page program, who conceded Friday that Republicans have mishandled the matter.

But top GOP leaders, including House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, and majority leader John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, have yet to testify. Nor have senior Hastert aides who dealt last fall with Foley's inappropriate e-mails to a former page, but claim they never told their boss.

The panel is investigating Foley's sexually charged Internet communications with teenage pages. The four-member panel has been hearing witnesses with knowledge of how Republicans handled several alarms raised about Foley's conduct over the past five years.

``Having 20/20 hindsight, a lot of things would have been done differently," Representative John Shimkus , Republican of Illinois, said Friday after he testified for more than three hours before the House ethics committee.

Shimkus, head of the House Page Board, said he intervened last fall to stop Foley from e-mailing a former congressional page who considered the contacts inappropriate.

Shimkus kept the two other House Page Board members in the dark when he confronted Foley last fall. He did so, he said, to follow the wishes of the boy's parents, who wanted the matter to remain private.

Democrats have criticized Shimkus for not informing Representative Dale Kildee , Democrat of Michigan, a longtime member of the Page Board, after learning of the incident involving Foley.

Shimkus said he had no earlier indication of problems involving Foley and pages.

But Representative Jim Kolbe, Republican of Arizona, has said a former page contacted his office in 2001 or 2002 to report receiving e-mails from Foley that made him uncomfortable.

Separately, federal prosecutors in Arizona have opened a preliminary investigation into an unspecified allegation related to a camping trip that Kolbe took with two former pages and others in 1996, a law enforcement official said. Kolbe spokeswoman Korenna Cline said, ``There is absolutely no basis and no truth to any inappropriate behavior" on Kolbe's part.

Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican in the House.

Foley resigned Sept. 29 after ABC News confronted him with sexually explicit instant messages he sent in 2003 to a former page.

No House member has claimed any advance knowledge of those explicit messages. It was the milder e-mails to a former page from Louisiana that prompted Shimkus, along with then-Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl, to confront Foley about his behavior in fall 2005.

This week, the ethics panel is expected to hear from Representative Rodney Alexander, Republican of Louisiana, whose office reported the ``over-friendly" e-mails to Hastert aides last fall. Boehner also has been summoned to appear before the panel.

Boehner and House GOP campaign chairman Tom Reynolds, Republican of New York, discussed the Foley matter with Alexander earlier this year.

Alexander has told the Associated Press that he raised the Foley e-mails with Boehner after being contacted by the news media about them.

Both Boehner and Reynolds said they raised the issue with Hastert, but the speaker said he does not recall such conversations.

Foley's former top aide, Kirk Fordham, has told investigators that he told Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, at least three years ago of problems regarding Foley and pages -- including the alleged page dorm incident.

Fordham told the panel that Foley tried to enter the page dorm while drunk several years ago, according to one source familiar with Fordham's actions.

Palmer strongly denied Fordham's account, and the discrepancy is one of the major conflicts the committee must resolve.

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