Foe questions e-mails from Foley to page

Published September 29, 2006

WASHINGTON - A Democratic congressional candidate is calling for an investigation of Rep. Mark Foley over an e-mail exchange he had with a teenage boy who had been a congressional page.

Jessica Santillo, a spokeswoman for Tim Mahoney, who is running against the Fort Pierce Republican, called it "a matter for the appropriate authorities to investigate."

The Foley campaign, responding to a barrage of news media questions about the e-mails, said Mahoney's campaign was engaging in "character assassination."

The boy served as a page to a Louisiana congressman last year and came to know Foley, 52. He sent the congressman a thank-you note when his term as a page ended. After the boy returned to his home in Louisiana, Foley used his personal e-mail account to correspond with the teen.

In the exchange, Foley asked the boy about weathering Hurricane Katrina and wrote, "send me an e-mail pic of you." In another e-mail, Foley told the boy he was on a break from Congress and was in Florida. He asked the boy, "how old are you now?"

The boy forwarded excerpts from the e-mails to congressional staffers and said, "Maybe it is just me being paranoid, but seriously. This freaked me out."

The boy, who is not being identified because of his age, told the St. Petersburg Times in an interview last November, when the Times first learned of the e-mails, that he cut off correspondence with Foley.

"I thought it was very inappropriate," the boy told the Times. "After the one about the picture, I decided to stop e-mailing him back."

But the boy said he was not seeking publicity. "I don't want to get involved in any big thing," he said.

The e-mails have been circulating since they were posted on an anonymous blog on Sunday. An ABC News Web site posted an item about them Thursday afternoon and was the first to report that the Mahoney campaign was calling for an investigation.

ABC News reported that Foley's office said he routinely asked interns and job applicants for photographs. But when the Times asked Foley about the e-mails nearly a year ago, he did not mention that practice. He said he was merely trying to be friendly and did not mean to make the boy uncomfortable.

Foley has had e-mail exchanges with at least one other former page who told the Times he was surprised to get an e-mail from a congressman.

Jason Kello, a spokesman for Foley's campaign, portrayed the controversy as a political attack.

"There have not been any allegations made by ANYONE except by Tim Mahoney and the Democrats who are attempting to misrepresent a series of innocent communications to prop up a failing political campaign," Kello said in a statement. "This is nothing more than a political attack and an attempt at the worst kind of character assassination."

The Mahoney campaign did not specify what wrongdoing might have been committed, but there are strict rules about contacts between members of Congress and the teenage pages who serve as their messengers.

Bill Adair can be reached at adair@sptimes.com or 202 463-0575; Adam Smith can be reached asmith@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8241.