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Congressman resigns after e-mails questioned

AP | September 29 2006

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Florida, resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page.

"I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent," he said in a statement issued by his office.

Foley, 52, had been considered a shoo-in for re-election until the e-mails surfaced in recent days.

Campaign aides had previously acknowledged that the Republican congressman e-mailed the former Capitol page five times, but had said there was nothing inappropriate about the exchange. The page was 16 at the time of the e-mail correspondence.

Foley's election opponent, Democrat Tim Mahoney, has called for an investigation.

The correspondence took place in August 2005 after the boy gave Foley a handwritten thank you note before returning to Louisiana.

Foley was running for re-election to a seventh term. He has represented his district, which includes West Palm Beach, since 1995. Florida Republicans could replace Foley on the ballot.

In his exchanges with the boy, Foley asked how old he was, what he wanted for his upcoming birthday, how he was doing after Hurricane Katrina and for a photo.

The e-mails were posted Friday on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's Web site after ABC News reported their existence. The group asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to investigate the exchange Foley had with the boy, who served as a page for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Louisiana.

"The House of Representatives has an obligation to protect the teenagers who come to Congress to learn about the legislative process," the group wrote, adding that the committee, "must investigate any allegation that a page has been subjected to sexual advances by members of the House."

According to the CREW posting, the boy e-mailed a colleague in Alexander's office about Foley's e-mails, saying, "This freaked me out." On the request for a photo, the boy repeated the word "sick" 13 times.

He said Foley asked for his e-mail when the boy gave him a thank you card. The boy also said Foley wrote that he e-mailed another page.

"he's such a nice guy," Foley wrote about the other boy. "acts much older than his age...and hes in really great shape...i am just finished riding my bike on a 25 mile journey now heading to the gym...whats school like for you this year?"

In other e-mails, Foley wrote, "I am back in Florida now...its nice here...been raining today...it sounds like you will have some fun over the next few weeks...how old are you now?" and "how are you weathering the hurricane...are you safe...send me an email pic of you as well."

What the boy wrote to Foley, who is single, wasn't available. The e-mails were sent from Foley's personal account, which Foley spokesman Jason Kello says he uses to communicate with many people, including Gov. Jeb Bush.

"They have taken these e-mails out of context in order to smear a good man," said Kello, who described the exchange as "nonchalant, casual." He said Foley didn't save his e-mails or the boy's response.

Efforts to reach the boy were unsuccessful, but he told the St. Petersburg Times last November, "I thought it was very inappropriate. After the one about the picture, I decided to stop e-mailing him back." The Times didn't publish the comments until Friday.

The campaign for Mahoney, who trails Foley in the polls, said it didn't release the e-mails and wouldn't make them part of the campaign. In a statement released by Mahoney spokesman Jessica Santillo, the campaign referred to the boy as an "alleged victim."

"The seriousness of these allegations goes far beyond the tit for tat of a political campaign," Santillo said. "This is a matter for the appropriate authorities to investigate. I believe Mr. Foley deserves the benefit of the doubt until these allegations are proven true or false."

Alexander's chief of staff, Royal Alexander, didn't return several calls to his cell phone Thursday and Friday seeking comment. Alexander's press secretary, Adam Terry, didn't return an e-mail or phone messages. Alexander and Foley wouldn't talk to reporters while the House was in session Thursday and Foley didn't return calls to his cell phone.

Kello disputed the claim that the e-mails weren't distributed by the Mahoney campaign.

"They've been shopping this around to reporters for weeks now. They want a headline and that's it. It's a political smear campaign of the worst kind," Kello said.

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