WASHINGTON -- The indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and revelations that he allegedly paid a former student to conceal past sexual abuse, could raise new questions about his actions during the 2006 scandal involving former Congressman Mark Foley over inappropriate messages Foley sent to House pages.
A House Ethics Committee investigation, completed in December of that year, said that Hastert had likely been told about Foley's behavior months before the communications were revealed.
Asked whether the report's conclusions should be viewed any differently in light of the revelations over the last 48 hours, one former lawmaker who was a member of the investigative subcommittee said they've been asking themselves that very question. The former House member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it never occurred to them that there might have been a personal reason for why Hastert didn't act swiftly at the time. They said there was no basis for knowing about Hastert's past and was completely surprised by the indictment.
The 89-page report from a House ethics panel did not find that any current House members or employees violated the House Code of Official Conduct. But, the Investigative Subcommittee "was disturbed" by the conduct of some of those who dealt with allegations regarding Foley's behavior. It found instances where House leadership "failed to exercise appropriate diligence and oversight." And it says "a pattern of conduct was exhibited among many individuals to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences of former Representative Foley's conduct with respect to House pages."
Then-Majority Leader John Boehner testified to Congressional investigators that he had told Hastert on the House floor about Foley's communications in the spring of 2006, and that he believed Hastert told him the matter "has been taken care of." Representative Tom Reynolds also testified that he told Hastert about the issue, most likely in the Speaker's office. Hastert testified that he didn't recall either conversation.
There are two other living former lawmakers who were members of the Investigative subcommittee and they were also reached by CBS News on Saturday. They said the report shouldn't be viewed any differently and should only be seen in the context of the 2006 investigation. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity and said they were shocked about the details that have emerged from the indictment, one calling it a "personal tragedy" for Hastert and his family.
"The committee report stands as is," one of the former members said. "There's no way anybody can draw any conclusions."
The 2006 report stated: "The Investigative Subcommittee cannot determine conclusively the motivation for those who failed to fulfill their responsibilities" but identified several factors including that "raising the issue too aggressively might have risked exposing Rep. Foley's homesexuality, which could have adversely affected him both personally and politically." It also says that months before the midterm elections, "political considerations played a role" and that "the wishes of the page's family for privacy could have provided a convenient justification for failing to pursue the matter more aggressively for those who were already so inclined."
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner would not comment.