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Democrat Candidate Flays Congress GOP

Democratic congressional candidate Patty Wetterling, whose son was abducted 17 years ago, said GOP congressional leadership failed to protect teenage House pages from former Rep. Mark Foley's advances.

"Foley sent obvious predatory signals, received loud and clear by members of congressional leadership, who swept them under the rug to protect their political power," Wetterling charged in her party's weekly radio address Saturday.

"If a teacher did this and the principal was told but did nothing, once the community found out, that principal would be fired."

Wetterling, running for an open seat against Republican state Sen. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota's 6th District, is already airing a hard-hitting television ad over revelations that Foley, R-Fla., had been sending inappropriate e-mails to teenage pages for years.

"We need a new direction in Congress because our children need strong voices," Wetterling said in the radio address. "We need to stop the sexual exploitation of children across the country, and in Washington we must hold accountable all those complicit in allowing this victimization to happen."

The president's weekly address avoided the Foley scandal, instead focusing on the rash of school shootings across the country in recent weeks. "Our goal is clear: Children and teachers should never fear for their safety when they enter a classroom," the president said.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has rejected calls to resign, saying he hasn't done anything wrong. Republicans, including President Bush, have closed ranks around Hastert in recent days.

Hastert had blamed Democrats for the election-season revelations, but on Thursday abruptly changed course and took responsibility for the matter.

Wetterling's 11-year-old son, Jacob, was abducted in 1989 on a rural road. Despite a massive search effort, Jacob was never seen or heard from again. The loss transformed Wetterling from a stay-at-home mom to a national advocate for missing children.

"For 17 years, I have fought for tough penalties for those who harm children," Wetterling said. "Members of Congress are not and should not be above the law."

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