David Kurtz

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.

Articles by David

Speaker Hastert's letter to the Attorney General, via Roll Call:

“Former Representative Mark Foley resigned from the House of Representatives on Friday, September 29, 2006, after improper and illicit communications between Mr. Foley and former House pages were made public. While the House of Representatives on that day voted to refer this matter to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for investigation, they do not have jurisdiction over federal law or over him upon his resignation from office.

“As Speaker of the House, I hereby request that the Department of Justice conduct an investigation of Mr. Foley's conduct with current and former House pages to determine to what extent any of his actions violated federal law.

“As I am sure you are aware, there are two different and distinct communications at issue here. First, Mr. Foley sent an email to a former page of Representative Alexander in the fall of 2005. This email was determined to be "over friendly" by Representative Alexander's office but was not sexual in nature. Second, based on media reports, there is a different set of communications which were sexually explicit instant messages which Mr. Foley reportedly sent another former page or pages. These communications, of which no one in the House Leadership was aware to my knowledge, reportedly were sent sometime in 2003.

“According to an Editor's Note that appeared on the St. Petersburg Times' website yesterday, the Times was given a set of emails from Mr. Foley to Representative Alexander's former page in November of 2005. (See "A Note From the Editors" located at http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz /, visited on September 30, 2006). The editors state that they viewed this exchange as "friendly chit chat" and decided not to publish it after hearing an explanation from Representative Foley. Acting on this same communication, the Chairman of the House Page Board and the then Clerk of the House confronted Mr. Foley, demanded he cease all contact with the former page as his parents had requested, and believed they had privately resolved the situation as the parents had requested.

“Unlike the first communication, the second communication was a set of instant messages that contained sexually explicit statements and were reportedly generated three years ago. Last week, ABC News first reported these sexually explicit instant messages which led to Representative Foley's resignation. These sexually explicit communications warrant a criminal referral in two respects. Initially, since the communications involve interstate communications, there should be a complete investigation and prosecution of any federal laws that have been violated. In addition, since the communications appear to have existed for three years, there should be an investigation into the extent there are persons who knew or had possession of these messages but did not report them to the appropriate authorities. It is important to know who may have had the communications and why they were not given to prosecutors before now.

“Therefore, I also request that the Department undertake an investigation into who had specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement. I request that the scope of your investigation include any and all individuals who may have been aware of this matter-be they Members of Congress, employees of the House of Representatives, or anyone outside the Congress.

“Your attention to this serious matter is appreciated. I am also sending to the Department of Law Enforcement for the State of Florida a request to investigate whether or not any state laws were violated by Mr. Foley or anyone else with respect to this matter.”

Will she stay or will she go now?

Laura Bush scheduled to be keynote speaker at luncheon honoring Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY).

For those of you who have been away this weekend (and in a cave), that would be this guy.

Hastert calls for federal criminal investigation of Rep. Mark Foley . . . developing

Update: Does calling for an investigation after one is already underway count for anything?

Late Update: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had already called this afternoon for immediate action by the House Ethics Committee. By calling for criminal investigation, does Hastert hope to keep the genie in the bottle through Election Day?

Later update: Haven't seen the letter yet, but here's a key part, according to AP:

The scope of the investigation, Hastert wrote, should include "any and all individuals who may have been aware of this matter -- be they members of Congress, employees of the House of Representatives or anyone outside the Congress."

"Anyone outside of Congress"? That seems like a pretty direct reference to Jeff Trandahl, the Clerk of the House at the time who helped with the "investigation" of Foley, the one no one told the Democrats about.

ABC, which has led the way on the Rep. Mark Foley story, now reporting that GOP congressional staff was warning pages about Foley five years ago:

A Republican staff member warned congressional pages five years ago to watch out for Congressman Mark Foley, according to a former page.

Matthew Loraditch, a page in the 2001-2002 class, told ABC News he and other pages were warned about Foley by a supervisor in the House Clerk's office.

Loraditch, the president of the Page Alumni Association, said the pages were told "don't get too wrapped up in him being too nice to you and all that kind of stuff."

Foley now in FBI crosshairs, ABC News reports:

The FBI has opened a "preliminary investigation" of disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley over the sexually explicit Internet messages he sent to congressional pages, all male high school students under the age of 18.

Agents in the FBI's Cyber Division have already begun to examine the texts of some of the messages, according to a FBI spokesperson.

Let me touch on one aspect of the Foley scandal that a lot of readers have been emailing about--Foley's financial contributions to the NRCC.

The role of NRCC chair Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) in the scandal is important. Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) told Reynolds about the page emails from Foley, and Reynolds says he talked to Hastert about it. As head of the NRCC, which is charged with getting Republicans elected to Congress, Reynolds does seem like a strange choice of people for Alexander to alert. Add in the fact that Reynolds' chief of staff used to be chief of staff for Foley, and the connections deepen.

But there is also a campaign finance connection between Reynolds and Foley. Foley was a big contributor to the NRCC. We got a tip on this yesterday, and after looking into it, concluded that while Foley's campaign committee has given significant sums to the NRCC in the last 2-3 years, the amount involved is what you would expect veteran GOPers like Foley to be contributing. By themselves, Foley's donations don't stand out.

Let me explain.

Foley has given more than $300,000 to the NRCC in the past two years or so. He gave another $15,000 the year before that. You'll see that $100,000 of those contributions came in one donation from Foley this past July.

No question that's a significant amount of money. But in the 2004 election cycle it doesn't place Foley among the top 20 contributors to the NRCC. Most of that list consists of Republican congressmen other than Foley. The July donation just barely qualifies Foley as top 20 contributor to the NRCC in the 2006 cycle.

The other thing to note is that senior members of the House GOP caucus, including committee chairmen, are required by the GOP, at least implicitly, to meet certain fundraising thresholds for the NRCC in order to maintain their committee positions. This is especiallly true of those who occupy safe seats, like Foley did.

Foley was not THE go-to guy for the NRCC. He was one of many go-to guys. That's not to say campaign cash didn't play a role in the kid gloves treatment Foley received from the GOP leadership. It's just that those campaign contributions alone don't add up to that conclusion.

A reader asks, why not call Rep. Mark Foley a pedophile based on what we now know? Glenn Greenwald offers an explanation:

For now, I will just note what seems to be the bizarre and incoherent contradiction in the law, noted by Atrios yesterday, that in-person, actual sex between Foley and a 16-year-old page would be perfectly legal in D.C. and in most places in the U.S., but it seems that it is a criminal act for Foley to discuss or solicit sexual acts with the same page over the Internet. Despite all the irritatingly righteous (and overheated) "pedophile" language being tossed around, in the overwhelming majority of states, and in Washington DC, the legal age of consent for sex is 16 years old. That means that actual, in-person sex between Foley and a 16-year-old page in D.C. would not be criminal at all (though it likely could have other legal implications).

But under the so-called "Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006" (of which Foley was a co-sponsor), along with 18 U.S.C. 2251, discussion or solicitation of sexual acts between Foley and any "minor" under the age of 18 would appear to be a criminal offense (see Adam Walsh Act, Sec. 111(14) ("MINOR.--The term 'minor' means an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years") and 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2256 (1) (“'minor' means any person under the age of eighteen years").

But those are just the criminal aspects. It goes without saying that having a predatory Congressman sexually solicit teenage Congressional pages is a serious problem and the House leadership had a responsibility to act when they learned about it. And here, they clearly appear not to have taken action due to the political desire to protect Foley's seat.

The Rep. Mark Foley M.O.: wait until after pages returned home to contact them?

TPM Reader JA asks: "If the GOP can't even keep a bunch of 15 year olds safe, how can they keep America safe?"

From the AP (emphasis mine):

White House aide Dan Bartlett said the allegations against Foley were shocking and that President Bush had not been informed previously about the e-mails. Bartlett said there was no need for an independent outside investigation.

"The leadership appear to be very aggressive in pursuing this investigation," he said. "I think that's the best place for this investigation to go forward."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said at first he had learned only last week about the e-mails Foley sent to a page. Hastert later acknowledged that aides referred the matter to the authorities last fall.

First off, this White House wouldn't know an aggressive investigation if it slapped it upside the head with a subpoena.

That being said, what about Hastert aides referring the matter to "authorities"? That makes it sound as if law enforcement were notified, but in the context of the piece, the AP apparently only means that Hastert's office sent the matter over to the page program board. That leaves the completely inaccurate impression that somehow Hastert doesn't have oversight over the whole dang operation. He is the Speaker of the House! He IS the authority. Mr. Magoo indeed.