Sometimes people say that politics make them feel unclean, but this story will amplify that exponentially. Rep. Mark Foley, a Republican from Florida with an almost-assured re-election bid, has resigned from Congress after harrassing a teen-age intern. His abrupt departure leaves his organization bereft of its chair — the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children:
Saying he was “deeply sorry,” Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned from Congress today, hours after ABC News questioned him about sexually explicit internet messages with current and former congressional pages under the age of 18.
A spokesman for Foley, the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, said the congressman submitted his resignation in a letter late this afternoon to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. …
They say he used the screen name Maf54 on these messages provided to ABC News.
Maf54: You in your boxers, too?
Teen: Nope, just got home. I had a college interview that went late.
Maf54: Well, strip down and get relaxed.
Maf54: What ya wearing?
Teen: tshirt and shorts
Maf54: Love to slip them off of you.
And this one:
Maf54: Do I make you a little horny?
Teen: A little.
The language gets much more graphic, too graphic to be broadcast, and at one point the congressman appears to be describing Internet sex.
I’m not sure why this happens, but every generation or so we have to have a Congressional scandal involving interns and pages. This time, it’s Foley’s turn to embarrass his constituents. Apparently Foley had a habit of sending sexually explicit messages to his staffers. ABC has a dialog from 2003 that certifies Foley as quite the pervert, engaging in a sex chat that shows an obsession with a high-schooler’s masturbatory habits.
Eeeeesh. And this guy chaired a caucus on exploited children?
UPDATE: A couple of points to note about this story. First and least importantly, the impact on the election seems lighter than first thought. According to USA Today, the withdrawal of Foley from the ballot will not keep the GOP off the ballot in November:
Florida law will not allow Republicans to put another name on the ballot in Foley’s district. Gregory Langowski, executive director of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, said that normally a special election would be held, but there isn’t enough time for that. The state GOP is looking into the situation.
However, state law will allow Republicans to “designate a replacement candidate. All votes that go to Foley will count for the ‘GOP-designated’ candidate.” That interpretation is based on language in Florida’s election laws. There, it is stated that in a case such as this, “the ballots shall not be changed,” but “ballots cast for the former party nominee will be counted for the person designated by the political party.”
Foley won the district 68%-32% two years ago over Democrat Jeff Fisher. A poll this month had Foley under 50%, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Democrats were closely watching the contest even before Foley’s resignation.
Great. Now if the Republicans can get Floridians to cast their votes for a disgraced sex obsessive, at least in name, they should hold onto the seat. At least if people want to support the GOP, their votes will count towards their eventual replacement even if the name of the candidate doesn’t appear on the ballot.
More concerning are reports that the Republican leadership knew of Foley’s extracurricular activities before his exposure, so to speak. Apparently, they took his denials at face value and dropped the investigation at the request of the parents involved:
Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who sponsored the page from his district, told reporters that he learned of the e-mails from a reporter some months ago and passed on the information to Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Republican campaign organization.
Alexander said he did not pursue the matter further because “his parents said they didn’t want me to do anything.”
Carl Forti, a spokesman for the GOP campaign organization, said Reynolds learned from Alexander that the parents did not want to pursue the matter. Forti said, however, that the matter did go before the House Page Board — the three lawmakers and two House officials who oversee the pages.
Shimkus, who avoided reporters for hours, worked out his statement with Speaker Dennis Hastert’s office. He said he promptly investigated what he thought were non-explicit message exchanges.
“It has become clear to me today, based on information I only now have learned, that Congressman Foley was not honest about his conduct,” Shimkus said.
Obviously this was a huge mistake. One might have thought that someone could have checked his e-mail, although it looks like Foley was at least smart enough to avoid using his Congressional account. The board instructed him to cease all contact with the one page involved at the time and to refrain from inappropriate behavior with interns in the future. Without any endorsement from the parents, it would have been difficult to proceed, but one would think that someone would have suggested that the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children could find new leadership. It’s an embarrassment the Republicans could have done without in this election.