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Report: Colleague Warned Foley In 2000

U.S. Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida speaks at a press conference, along with Republican Vito Fossella of New Jersey (not shown), about the recent purchase of the Port of Miami on Februrary 21, 2006 in Miami, Florida.
Getty Images/Richard Patterson
A Republican member of Congress confronted then-Rep. Mark Foley about his Internet communications with teenagers as early as 2000, according to a newspaper report.

The report in the Washington Post pushes back by at least five years the date when a member of Congress acknowledges learning of the Florida Republican's questionable behavior toward pages.

It came as the Republican leadership attempted to present a united front on the congressional page scandal that has rocked the GOP a month before midterm elections and put House Speaker Dennis Hastert on shaky ground.

Though Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., insisted Sunday that "the dirty laundry in our conference is gone," that claim appeared to be premature.

The Washington Post reported Sunday night that Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., confronted Foley about his Internet communications with teenagers as early as 2000.

The Post said that a former page showed Kolbe some Internet messages from Foley that had made the page uncomfortable. Kolbe's press secretary, Korenna Cline, told the Post that a Kolbe staff member advised the page last week to discuss the matter with the clerk of the House.

Hastert and his aides have been criticized for failing to act promptly after receiving warnings about Foley's questionable electronic communications with pages.

Hastert since has insisted he was not aware of the communications until recently. But on the day after Foley resigned, New York Rep. Tom Reynolds said he had told Hastert months ago about concerns that Foley had sent inappropriate messages. Reynolds now says he cannot remember exactly when he learned of Foley's e-mails or when he told Hastert about them.

Also Sunday, the New Hampshire Union-Leader editorial board said that "Republicans must insist" that Hastert resign. The paper called for Rep. Alexander and Shimkus to do the same on account of "their willful failure to examine Foley's conduct more closely last fall."

Putnam sat in Sunday for Reynolds, who canceled an appearance on ABC's "This Week" because, said an aide, he was suffering from a "flu-like" ailment. Reynolds is facing a tough re-election fight against Democrat Jack Davis.

Reynolds has been criticized by Democrats who say he did too little to protect a male teenage page from Foley who resigned Sept. 29 after disclosure of his inappropriate electronic messages to former congressional pages. Foley is now under investigation by federal and Florida authorities.

Putnam, who heads the Republican Policy Committee, sought to make the case that Hastert's office "acted proactively, they acted aggressively, and within hours of the explicit e-mails coming to light, they demanded Foley's resignation."

One Republican lawmaker said Sunday that those who participated in a cover-up would have to resign.

"Anybody that hindered this in any kind of way, tried to step in the way of hiding this, covering it up, is going to have to step down. Whoever that is," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., on CBS News' Face the Nation.

Joined by his Republican colleague, Rep. Ray LaHood of Louisiana, the pair attempted to distance the GOP from Foley's actions and shore up support for Hastert.

"There's been a lot of ducking and dodging and diving and weaving," said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill. "There is a lot of fingerpointing that had gone on earlier in the week, but I do think people are behind the speaker now."

CBS News correspondent Sharly Attkisson reports Republicans are hoping to shift some blame by saying that exposure of the Foley scandal is a Democratic dirty trick, a juicy secret saved for an October surprise just in time to affect elections.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said on CNN that Democrats should be investigated to see whether they leaked the explicit e-mails to gain a political advantage before the elections, although the lawmaker acknowledged he had no evidence indicating that was the case.

Responded Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.: "I think it's ridiculous. But if I was in a bind, as the Republicans are now, I guess I would be reaching for straws. But it's sad."

Hastert, R-Ill., last week tried to blame the Democrats and the news media for leaking the story but then accepted responsibility. He's resisted pressure to resign his speaker's post over his handling of the scandal.

Republicans have mixed views on the upcoming elections.

"This is going to be the most difficult 30 days in the last 12 years that we've been the majority party," LaHood said on CBS. The GOP took power after the 1994 election.

Almost half of Americans surveyed in a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll said recent disclosures of corruption and scandal will be extremely or very important to their vote.

Also, more than half of those surveyed in a Newsweek poll released this weekend believe Hastert tried to cover up news of Foley's messages to the pages. That poll gives Democrats the advantage on handling moral values, normally a Republican strong point.

The House ethics committee is investigating the matter. If it finds evidence of a cover-up, the punishment could range from a mild rebuke in a committee report to a House vote of censure or expulsion.

Reynolds began an ad campaign Saturday in which he apologized for not doing more.

"Nobody's angrier and more disappointed that I didn't catch his lies," Reynolds says. "I trusted that others had investigated. Looking back, more should have been done, and for that, I am sorry."