Former House Majority Leader

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Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay was known for–indeed prided himself and built his power upon–his encyclopedic knowledge of the House GOP caucus: members’ likes and dislikes, their personal and political strengths and weaknesses, their pressure points.

Delay was Majority Leader until February 2006. So when the emails between Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) and a congressional page first came to the attention of the House leadership last fall, Delay was still majority leader. (Ironically, Delay’s successor as majority leader, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), came to Congress as a result of a sex-with-a-minor scandal involving the then-incumbent Buz Lukens, whom Boehner defeated in the GOP primary in 1990.) So what did Delay know, and when?

Now the broad version of events being put out by Hastert and Company is that this all came to their attention when Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) brought the concerns of the page and his family to the leadership. No one can get their story straight about what happened after that, but that is the starting point for the story, or so we are told.

But if Foley already had a “reputation” among congressional pages, you can bet his reputation extended to staffers and probably to congressmen themselves. One thing that seems to be missing from the GOP reaction is shock or surprise. Maybe I’ve simply overlooked them, but I haven’t seen any quotes along the lines of what you usually expect when something like this breaks: the befuddled reactions of those who knew the alleged perpetrator but had no idea he was even capable of what he is being accused of. I’m thinking of those standard quotes from serial killers’ neighbors: he was quiet, kept to himself, seemed completely normal.

It’s a small world up there on the Hill, and you just don’t get the sense that this is a bolt from the blue. I’d be surprised if some reporters didn’t already have the low-down on Foley’s “over-friendly” ways.

The peccadilloes of congressmen is the black market currency on the Hill. Gossip is golden. And Tom Delay was the leading broker. So what did he know and when?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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