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Foley scandal creates a quagmire

By TIMES STAFF WRITER
Published October 10, 2006


A week and half after Rep. Mark Foley resigned from Congress, GOP candidates nationwide are walking a tricky line condemning Foley for sending racy messages to former House pages while reaffirming loyalty to party leaders.

In Florida's 9th Congressional District, Democratic candidate Phyllis Busansky has said House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-New York, ignored "red flags" and are now trying to cover up their inaction. Whether investigations reveal criminal wrongdoing, Hastert "knew Foley was a loose cannon," failed to take care of the situation and ought to resign, she said.

Busansky also has called on Republican nominee Gus Bilirakis to return campaign contributions from Hastert and other Republican leaders who fielded early complaints about Foley.

Bilirakis talked to the Times about the scandal last week:

What do you think of the response from Hastert and other Republican leaders? While we do not know if they were aware of explicit e-mails, we know that last year they were told Foley was e-mailing a 16-year-old page asking for his picture and what he wanted for his birthday.

I think what we need to do is a full and thorough investigation. No one is above the law. That's my opinion. Let's see what the facts are.

Do you take issue that Hastert and his people knew about Foley's overly friendly e-mails, but didn't talk to any pages or anybody other than Foley himself?

Like I said, let the facts unveil themselves. Nothing should be covered up. And there should be a full investigation. Let the chips fall where they may. I'm not protecting anyone and I think Foley is despicable. ... It's horrible and I'm glad he resigned. And he may have committed a crime and he should be prosecuted for it.

Do you think Hastert tried to cover it up?

I don't think so, I mean knowing the kind of person he is. But the thing is, that's all going to come out. And whoever tried to cover it up should be prosecuted.

What's your response to the connection your opponent is trying to make between you and the Foley scandal?

... I've met Mark Foley maybe three times in my life. I didn't support him for Senate. I supported Bill McCollum. I don't have any contact with Mark Foley. I think he should have resigned and he did and that's a good thing.

I haven't taken any money from Foley. Dennis Hastert came down for a fundraiser. ...

Your Democratic opponent is requesting you return the campaign money from Hastert's Leadership PAC and well as the money you received from Republican committee Chairman Tom Reynolds, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois.

I will just tell you this: We need a full investigation at this time. I think what Mark Foley did was despicable, a terrible role model for our children. We probably need to reform the system up there, there's no question. That's one of the first things that I'll do.

These people have not done anything, they have not been convicted of anything, the speaker or Tom Reynolds. They're innocent at this particular time. But I'm for a full investigation, a thorough investigation. And no one, absolutely no one, is above the law.

Do you think it's fair that now some Democrats are trying to paint this broad brush and say it's all Republicans?

It's politics, but the thing is we need to concentrate on the issues and there are serious issues facing us today.

First of all, if he committed a crime he needs to be convicted. Anybody who covered it up should be prosecuted. We also don't (want to) lose focus on the main issues today such as homeowners insurance.

So will you continue supporting Dennis Hastert then?

First of all, I've got to get elected and I don't take anything for granted. So I've got elected to Congress if the people would have me.

[Last modified October 10, 2006, 16:41:59]


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