Former aide to Foley testifies

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- The former top aide to disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, provided testimony yesterday standing by his claim that he alerted the House speaker's office about inappropriate conduct by his boss long before Foley's sexual overtures to male congressional pages became public two weeks ago, the aide's lawyer said.

The aide, Kirk Fordham, testified for more than four hours before House members investigating the possible failure of House GOP leaders to heed early signs of Foley's behavior.


Although Fordham followed instructions from the panel to say nothing about his testimony, his lawyer, Tim Heaphy, said the aide's account of his actions was consistent with comments he has made previously.

Fordham, who left Foley's office in 2004 and eventually went to work for another GOP House member, said last week that he alerted the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, more than two years ago that Foley had sought to develop inappropriate relationships with the pages.


Members of Hastert's office have disputed that claim. And Hastert has said he was told only a year ago about some electronic messages from Foley to pages that were innocuous compared with those that forced Foley to resign from his House seat Sept. 29.

The resulting scandal has rocked Republicans as they fight to retain their House and Senate majorities in November's election.

The credibility of Fordham's claim appears key to determining whether the GOP congressional leadership, while not knowing about Foley's sexually overt messages, received a warning in 2003 or early 2004 about him that should have spurred efforts to shield pages from contact with the lawmaker.

The ethics committee's finding on this issue could determine whether the scandal results in further shakeups within Republican ranks on Capitol Hill. Panel members have said they hope to complete their investigation within a relatively short time, although it is not clear whether they will finish it before the November vote.

Fordham has been interviewed by the FBI, which is also looking into the Foley case.

"He has been consistent in his accounts when he talked to the FBI" and yesterday in his testimony, said Heaphy, Fordham's lawyer.

Earlier yesterday, the ethics panel questioned Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who is one of the three members of the congressional board that oversees the page program. Capito said afterward that she testified that she had no knowledge of any of the questions that had been raised about Foley before news of his sexually explicit messages to pages made national headlines.

Joel Havemann and Richard Simon write for the Los Angeles Times.