Chief of staff to Rep. Alexander set to testify before ethics panel

Monday, October 16th 2006, 11:33 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House ethics committee Monday was set to question the top aide in a Louisiana congressman's office, where a chain of events began that raised questions about Republican handling of ex-Rep. Mark Foley's approaches to male page.

Royal Alexander, chief of staff to Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., went into the ethics committee offices but emerged after 45 minutes and said the panel wasn't ready to question him yet. Alexander, who is not related to the congressman, said he would be recalled for testimony, which is in closed session.

Rep. Alexander's office last fall complained to House Speaker Dennis Hastert's staff about Foley's overly friendly _ but not sexually explicit _ e-mails to a former Louisiana teenage page the congressman had sponsored.

Royal Alexander said outside the ethics committee, ``We've done what we should from the very beginning. I'm proud of our office and proud of our page.''

Rodney Alexander has said the former page contacted his office last fall, saying Foley had asked about the teenager's age, then 16, and his birthday. Foley also requested a photo.

Foley resigned his seat Sept. 29 after he was confronted with more sexually explicit instant messages to other former pages.

According to previous statements, Royal Alexander contacted aides to Hastert last fall about the Louisiana page.

This timeline has triggered a major discrepancy, because Hastert has said that was the first time his staff heard about Foley's contacts. Foley's former chief of staff said he first contacted Hastert's top aide in 2002 or 2003.

Royal Alexander last fall didn't actually show the messages to Hastert's staff members, but described them and said the boy's parents wanted the contacts to stop.

Hastert's staff then contacted the House clerk at the time, Jeff Trandahl, and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill. Both met with Foley to ask he stop all contact with the teenager.

Shimkus is chairman of the House Page Board, consisting of three lawmakers, the clerk and the sergeant at arms. The board oversees the page program, which allows high school students to attend a congressional school while working as messengers for Congress.

Foley assured the two he was only acting as a mentor, and agreed to Shimkus' demand that he cease contact with the youngster. Shimkus, who testified last week before the ethics panel, said he never informed the other lawmakers on the Page Board, citing the wishes of the parents to stop the contact and not pursue the matter.

Last spring, Alexander has said, he mentioned the Foley situation to House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Boehner referred him to Rep. Tom Reynolds. R-N.Y., the House GOP campaign chairman.

Both Boehner and Reynolds said they spoke with Hastert, who has said repeatedly he doesn't remember speaking with either lawmaker. Hastert says he first learned about Foley's approaches at the time he resigned in late September. The speaker added he believes his staff acted appropriately but anyone who covered up the matter would be fired.