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Former House Page Tells His Story

As the House ethics committee began its investigation into the burgeoning Mark Foley sex scandal and allegations of a cover-up on Capitol Hill, a former House page came forward and said that he was on the receiving end of sexually suggestive messages from then-Rep. Mark Foley.

It happened in 1997, says Tyson Vivyan, 26, who says the first instant messages from Foley came a few months after finishing his service as a page.

Vivyan's account appears to show the earliest exchange of suggestive messages reported so far between Foley and teens who had served in the Congressional page program.

Previous accounts placed the earliest contacts in 2003; Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, in a news conference Thursday, rebuffed calls for his own resignation and insisted that last week was the first time he'd heard allegations of Foley sending lurid e-mails to former pages.

The scandal is potentially costly for the GOP; a new AP-Ipsos poll of likely voters in the midterm elections found that about half said disclosures of scandal and corruption in Congress will be "very" or "extremely" important when they enter the voting booths.

Vivyan, speaking to an Associated Press reporter Thursday, said he never met Foley personally during his stint as a page, other than brief greetings while working in the cloakroom beside the House chamber where members take breaks.

Vivyan says after leaving Capitol Hill, he started getting instant messages via computer from a person with the screen name MAF54, which has been linked in news reports to Foley. He said he wasn't sure who it was, but the person knew his name and physical description. He said the person asked personal questions, such as his sexual orientation.

Vivyan said he figured the person had to be on Capitol Hill, and began looking up initials in a congressional guide. He said that when he found Foley's initials - MAF, born in 1954 - he realized who it was.

"It was almost surreal. Not only was I conversing with a congressman in a personal manner, I was conversing in a sexual manner," Vivyan said.

Vivyan said that after he guessed it was Foley, the person continued to contact him. Vivyan said he tried to turn the conversation to politics. Foley, said Vivyan, would often stop talking and contact him a week later with suggestive messages.

Vivyan also said he was invited to Foley's brownstone in Washington. Vivyan said he didn't want to go alone, so brought a fellow page with him. He said they had pizza and soft drinks, and nothing sexual happened.

David Roth, attorney for the Florida Republican former congressman, declined to comment on the allegations.

Foley, 52, resigned Friday. He has since entered an alcohol rehabilitation facility at an undisclosed location. Through his lawyer, he has said he is gay but denied any sexual contact with minors.

Vivyan said he was nominated as a page by Rep. John. J. Duncan, R-Tenn. Don Walker, Duncan's deputy chief of staff, confirmed Thursday to the AP that Vivyan was a page from Duncan's district.

"We did not get any complaints from him while he was a page or after he was a page or anytime thereafter until Monday," Walker said. "As soon as we learned of it we turned it over to the authorities."

Vivyan said he was interviewed this week by the FBI. FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett in Atlanta declined comment.