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House Panel Probes Foley Page Scandal

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., talks to reporters after testifying before the House Ethics Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2006. His attorney Craig Smith is at left. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
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A Louisiana congressman and sponsor of a page who later received questionable e-mails from ex-Rep. Mark Foley went before a House ethics panel Wednesday to explain how his office handled the teen's complaint last fall.

GOP Rep. Rodney Alexander appeared Wednesday morning and says that after he and his staff learned of the e-mails to the former page, his aides contacted the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., for advice on what to do about communications the boy's family thought were inappropriate.

"We told 'em what we know, when we knew it, and what we did about it. And we are looking forward and hoping that the committee will talk to others," Alexander told reporters after testifying. "It's quite apparent from some of the reports out there that there are many people that know what we know and have known it for a lot longer period of time than we've known."

Alexander said he thought the investigation was going well and reiterated his concern for the page's family, reports CBS News' Allison Davis.

"He's been exposed to a lot of trauma. His parents have been almost physically sick about the attention that he's gotten unfairly," Alexander said of the page.

Alexander's account — that the matter was passed on to more senior House members and top staff — has not been challenged. His testimony is a small piece of a more confusing puzzle that puts Hastert and his aides at odds with the accounts of other top GOP lawmakers and their aides.

Two of those figures, Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl, are scheduled to testify Thursday.

Boehner has said he discussed the Foley situation with Hastert last spring after Alexander informed him of the e-mails, as has Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y. Foley abruptly resigned from Congress last month after he was confronted with the contents of his messages to former pages.

Republicans are bracing for testimony by Trandahl — a top House aide who was the day-to-day overseer of the page program until leaving Capitol Hill last year. Trandahl confronted Foley about too-friendly e-mails sent to the ex-page.

Trandahl also handled other alleged incidents regarding Foley, including a 2001 or 2002 episode in which the Florida congressman sent e-mails described as "creepy" to a former page sponsored by Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. Kolbe's office went to Trandahl and the e-mails stopped.

Trandahl also is in position to support testimony by Kirk Fordham, a former top aide to Foley, who has told the panel he informed top House GOP aides of Foley's inappropriate behavior toward pages years ago. Fordham has testified about an episode several years ago in which a drunk Foley is said to have tried to enter the page dorm.

Those top House GOP aides include Scott Palmer, Hastert's longtime top aide and confidant, who denies Fordham's account and who is not mentioned in an account by the speaker's office regarding the 2005 incident with the Louisiana page.

Hastert aide Palmer has yet to testify; neither has the speaker.

Foley's most recent chief of staff, Elizabeth Nicholson, appeared for questioning by the ethics panel Wednesday afternoon. She has told former associates that she was unaware of Foley's inappropriate contacts with ex-pages.

"She just honestly had no clue," said a former co-worker.

On Tuesday, House Sergeant-at-Arms Wilson Livingood, a member of the Page Board, which oversees the program for high school students who basically function as congressional interns, was questioned for less than two hours. He would not comment afterward.

The ethics panel also heard Tuesday from Paula Nowakowski, chief of staff to Boehner. Boehner has said Hastert told him the Louisiana page's complaint "had been taken care of."

Separately this week, Page Board members discussed a camping trip Kolbe took with two former pages and others to the Grand Canyon in 1996, a congressional official said Tuesday. The trip is under review by the Justice Department.

The three lawmakers and two House officials who make up the board took no action and did not have any information beyond recent news accounts of the trip, the official said.

Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican in Congress, is retiring at the end of his term. He has denied through an aide that anything inappropriate occurred during the trip.