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Putting GOP Interests Over Child Safety Is NOT Acceptable

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The United States House of Representatives passed a resolution yesterday that was proposed by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), by a vote of 410 – 0, regarding the need for an ethics investigation not only into the alleged actions of Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), but also the need to know when the Republican leadership in the House was notified of the multiple e-mails sent to teenage House pages and why the Republican leadership never even bothered to notify the Democratic leadership that there was a potential problem of sexual harassment or worse with one of their members — for more than ten months.  The resolution read as follows:

Whereas for more than 150 years, parents from across the country have sent their children to be pages in the U.S. Capitol, the Page School is a national treasure, and the children who attend it and work in the Congress are our special trust;

Whereas, according to press reports, Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) reportedly engaged in highly inappropriate and explicit communications with a former underage page;

Whereas these allegations were so severe that Representative Foley immediately resigned his seat;

Whereas the page worked for Representative Rodney Alexander (R-LA) and, according to press reports, Representative Alexander learned of the emails "10 to 11 months ago"; (AP, September 29, 2006)

Whereas Representative Alexander has said, "We also notified the House leadership that there might be a potential problem", and the Democratic leadership was not informed; (AP, September 29, 2006)

Whereas all Members of Congress have a responsibility to protect their employees, especially young pages who serve this institution;

Whereas these charges demand immediate investigation, including a determination of when the emails were sent, who knew of the emails, whether there was a pattern of inappropriate activity by Mr. Foley involving email or other contacts with pages or former pages, when the Republican leadership was notified, and what corrective action was taken once officials learned of any improper activity;

Whereas given the serious nature of these charges, the pages, their parents, the public, and our colleagues must be assured that Congress will take responsibility that such egregious behavior is not tolerated and will never happen again;

Therefore be it resolved,

That the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct shall immediately appoint an Investigative Subcommittee to fully and expeditiously determine the facts connected with Representative Foley's conduct and the response thereto; and

That Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is further directed to make a preliminary report to the House within ten days. (emphasis mine)

Let me be crystal clear here: these are teenage children who are given an honorary position due to their exceptional grades, their outstanding community service work and any number of other reasons. They are working in the United States House of Representatives. They are teenagers.

And the Republican leadership was aware that an elected Republican representative was sending personal e-mails and IMs to various teenage pages — but either didn't investigate any more closely to see if they were wholly inappropriate and/or sexually explicit or what, according to Hastert's hemming and hawing in the WaPo this morning…and they did not tell the Democratic leadership nor did they take any overt actions from what I've been able to ascertain to remove this Republican representative from contact with these teenagers other than telling him to act more appropriately.

This is NOT acceptable in any way, shape or form — and it was an invitation to Rep. Foley to simply continue his alleged conduct, which was unacceptable and, at the very least, sexually harassing of these pages — who were not old enough to be expected to deal with the differences in age and power between themselves and this flirtatious letch of an elected official.

The ick factor alone on this is disgusting, but it is the utter lack of fiduciary care for the children involved that disgusts me the most.

Writing as both a mother and as a former prosecutor, I am appalled at the gall of the Republican leadership to keep this from the Democratic side of the aisle.  Did all the GOP members know?  If so, why weren't the pages on the Democratic side just as important to keep safe — to be warned about potential problems with the GOP Representative?  And if they didn't bother to tell the whole of the GOP caucus either, what does that say about the relative value of these kids' safety versus the political calculation about keeping a lid on all of this mess?  Was this all about staying quiet to save some GOP political hide?  So much for those family values…

Aren't the kids who were serving as pages in the House and Senate more important than some political consideration — didn't Denny Hastert and John Boehner and Roy Blunt and Tom DeLay and all the rest owe something to the parents of these children beyond "well, we want to stay in power, so we'll keep our mouths shut and hope he doesn't hit on any more boys until after the election?"

Look, I can understand a desire to win an election with the best of them — but this goes a lot deeper.  If you have a person who is allegedly predisposed to be attracted to very young kids, that predisposition does not go away because you say "don't send any more e-mails, mmm-kay?". 

And in this case, you have kids who are living in DC as pages, perhaps away from their homes for the first time, around very powerful people — and you put them in a situation where an elected official wants to discuss in detail what they do when they masturbate…and at the age of fifteen or sixteen, they are supposed to know to do what, exactly?  But the GOP Leadership didn't even bother to look into this enough to see that's what was going on — or did they, and they just didn't take the steps to protect kids from this?  Who the hell knows at this point, because it's turned into all CYA, alla time.

The adults in this situation, who were apprised of the problem, ought to have intervened on these kids' behalf.  I'm sorry, but there it is.  And from what I can tell, the GOP leadership has devolved into "woulda, coulda, shoulda" this morning — with Boehner pointing the finger at Hastert, and then taking it back, and Hastert playing dumb.  Someone dropped a whole lot of balls on this one — and that is simply not acceptable.  Does no one in the entire GOP know how to take responsibility?

And the worst thing is, every parent whose child was a House page for the last 16 years that Foley has been in the House is now thinking "did he do this with my child?"  and worse "how far did he go — was it just talk, or did he get further?"

This is NOT acceptable.  And the GOP leadership in the House had better have some answers beyond "I don't know — I thought he was looking into it."  Our nation's children are more valuable to all of us than that.

(The NYTimes has more.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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