October 3, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

In Washington, a Net protector or predator?

Mark Foley, who abruptly resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives last week after disclosures of inappropriate conversations with a teenage page, had spent years positioning himself as Congress' leading defender of children on the Internet.

Foley, a Republican who represented the area near Palm Beach, Fla., had spearheaded a legislative crackdown on Internet sites that post provocative photographs of teenage and preteen youth. He had pushed to open FBI databases to track sex offenders. He tried to force sexually explicit Web sites to label themselves accordingly.

Those public stances, coupled with Foley's strident denunciations of adults who prey on America's youth, further fueled the political hurricane surrounding his resignation just five weeks before the November elections. They also pose the troubling question of how a self-proclaimed Internet decency defender--if the leaked e-mail and chat transcripts are accurate--could be the very sort of person he claimed to despise.

The transcripts appear to show how Foley, 52, engaged in sexually explicit discussions with minors. One exchange posted by ABC News on its Web site on Monday describes how Maf54, Foley's screen name, set up a rendezvous with a teenage boy in San Diego and was planning another in Washington, D.C.

"It's very classic what you would call 'grooming behavior' on the part of an adult toward a juvenile," said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

Finkelhor described the exchange as part of an "effort to be interested in the kid, to identify with what the kid's doing and be a pal and be real friendly...There's an effort to kind of push the boundaries, keep moving the boundaries closer and closer to the explicit."

The allegations of Foley's clandestine flirtations have prompted House Republicans to distance themselves from him, as well as defend themselves from accusations that they knew about the ex-congressman's proclivities for at least six months and did nothing about it.

"The page program is an important part of this institution," Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told reporters on Monday. "It has inspired many generations to enter public service. It is a trust, and as a parent and as the speaker of the House, I am disgusted that Congressman Foley broke that trust."

However, House Democrats are asserting that the Republican leadership had bottled up earlier complaints about Foley's unwanted attentions toward pages and had not brought them to the attention of the full House Page Board.

"Speaker Hastert's announcement this afternoon is yet another example of the House Republican leadership being more concerned with finding political cover for themselves than with the safety and well-being of the House pages," said Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee, the Democrats' representative on the House Page Board.

In a sign that the scandal is eroding support for House Republicans among influential conservatives, The Washington Times on Tuesday published an editorial that called on Hastert to resign.

"Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance," the editorial said.

Also on Monday, the liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said that in July it had turned over to the FBI disturbing messages apparently from Foley with no response the agency. The FBI said that it is investigating the matter.

Five attempts at Net crackdowns
Perhaps more than any other politician since Sen. James Exon, the Nebraska Democrat who drafted the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Foley focused on parents' worries about children and the Internet.

Foley, who was co-chairman of the House's Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, was the lead sponsor for at least five bills in 2005 and 2006 aimed at protecting minors. One, the Child Modeling Exploitation Prevention Act, would create a new federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison for anyone who exploits minors by using their image for purposes other than legitimate marketing. (According to the leaked chat transcripts, Foley actively solicited photographs from minors.)

CONTINUED: Many faces of sleaze…
Page 1 | 2

See more CNET content tagged:
Republican, Washington, leadership, Democrat


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Sick Politicians
It's just sick, just sick to think a pedophile represents the people in Congress. And to think this one represents defenseless children is even more sickening.

It's like watching a fictional criminal tv show that potrays fictional characters with an inplausible plot of congress people living deceitful and treacherous lives.

But yet, it's come to life. It's reality. It's fiction turned into nonfiction. How many politicians and people in power are deranged? How many of them will continue to commit crimes? How many of them will get away with it?

Maybe it's time to tighten the bolts and put severe criminal charges on these people with power. How can society function with all these sick people on the loose?

Wow... so many questions that will never be answered truthfully. But one question begs for an immediate reply, one that this excongressman has trampled on and forever changed the way children will look towards their politicians for security.

Who do we trust?
Posted by Kiyomizu (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't disagree with anything you've said (I agree with the general moral of it all). But, a couple things confusing me:

1) Why do you distinguish the difference between "politicians" and human beings, standard members of society, or what we all call "normal"? I'm trying to figure out why you think a politician who's a paedo is "worse" than someone who isn't a politician.

2) Lose, not loose. Lose means to take away, remove -- loose means easily accessible, nearly ajar, or open-ended. (The popularity of this supposed "typo" overwhelms the possibility that it's simply a typo -- there are too many people these days who make this mistake for me to believe everyone's typoing it...)
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Link Flag
Best place to hide is in plain view of all.
Posted by Methuss (101 comments )
Link Flag
powerful taking advantage
Kiyomizu, yes you make the right distinction in both your posts about how power gives you privy and influence -- sadly, even on young impressionable boys. I'm sure these parents trusted that their kids would be safe as pages with politicians like Foley who had put predator legislation through. Then to find out that actions, like that predator legislation by Foley were merely ploys, a distraction from his perverted ways <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=108" target="_newWindow">http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=108</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
Link Flag
OTOH: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Rant
If we had followed Ruth Bader Ginsberg back in the 70's and lowered the age of consent to 12, and made posession of small amounts of reefer legal, law enforcement could fight REAL crime, there would be less political mud to sling, and parents of teenagers would have to take a little responsibility for the actions of thier spawn.
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
The U.S. Govt is the Real Threat to America
They spout off about video games, movies, music and everything else being bad for citizens. YET these
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.teckmagazine.com/content/view/603/43/" target="_newWindow">http://www.teckmagazine.com/content/view/603/43/</a>
are the same folks who protect/cover up each other's pedophilia behavior and look out for the best interest for themselves and their lobbyists.
Corruption is at the core of this country.
Posted by cnutsucks (25 comments )
Link Flag
Very Sad
I use to as a teenager up until 24 years of age watch porn.
Nothing sick just your average heterosexual porn. This was
really bad for my relationship with my wife who I married at age
23. I still desire porn and still want to view it. Thing is I also
hate it. I have such a passion against Porn and what it does to
people in the industry and to those who use it. So what this
person did was really sick, so sick i dont want to mention it, but
as to being one who publicly is against it and privately is
struggling with it... well we are all doing this to some level. I
guess what I am saying is that we should not be shocked that it
was the one speaking the loudest who had the problem.
Posted by ALPICH (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is why...
you need to be suspicious when politicians start pushing hard for new laws that are obsessive. Sure, Republicans want to "Protect your children" alright. Thats why they covered up Foley's activities.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This confirms my theory
I've believed for years that anyone who will do what is necessary to be elected to high public office, is not the kind of person you want in the job.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Please don't use this alleged crime for polical gain
Just once I would like to see congress deal with an important issue like this one without using it as an opportunity to bash the other side.

We need our representatives, democrats and republicans, to be able to work together not constantly fight one another.

Those who will use this for political gain, no matter the party, just need to go.
Posted by gary0107 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
That's why the 2 party system....
has to go! It has been nothing but a distraction and
is becoming very unproductive. With more choices, you don't have to vote for the lessor of two evils.
Posted by (16 comments )
Link Flag
Is it political gain?
When one party is trying to cover it's own a$$ instead of punishing someone? I don't vote party lines, I don't belong to a party, I am an independant. But, seeing the mounting evidence that the GOP hid this for fear of damage, instead of coming out harsly against it, (the least damaging approach) is utterly repulsive and inexcusable. Anyone who had a hand in hiding this, should be tossed as well, regardless of party, clout, or affiliation.
Posted by bemenaker (438 comments )
Link Flag
Too Late :(
...at least according to nearly every talking-head show on nearly every cable news station...

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
nothing will surprise me
I'm not aruging, I wish it were true, but there's no way that politicians are not going to use this for political gain. I wish I could say something positive about the United States political system but I can't at this point.
Posted by Mentor397 (73 comments )
Link Flag
Will we use it ? Hell yes !
How long have Repugnicans used and abused Bill clinton's sex affair ?

Now we have both a 'Family values' Repugnican who turns out to be a pedophile and the whole party that sided with him (including J. Dennis Hastert, the Repugnican Speaker of the House) in an attempt to hide the facts.

Will we use it ? Hell yes !
Posted by My-Self (242 comments )
Link Flag
"I did not have sexual relationships with that page..!"
One Democratic President denies having consensual sex with
another adult and the Republicans want him impeached. Want to
bet those same Republicans today are now trying to sweep this one
under the rug..!

*note: posted by non-partisan poster
Posted by imacpwr (456 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Big Difference
Big difference here... first of all, Foley hasn't been accused of touching the page. But lets get real, shall we? When news broke, Foley RESIGNED. When Lewinski news broke, President Clinton lied to the people, then lied in court, was convicted of perjury, and never lost his job. Foley is out, as he should be. Clinton got a pass for [i]illegally[/i] cheating on his wife, in the white house, on our dime.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
this is flagrant abuse
of power, in that here we have a supposed " leader of the nation " actually using it's power to impose it's self on thoser than it is....
i suppose this a member of NAMBLA as well?
seems to fit the general profile.......
Posted by jimetattooist (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
this is flagrant abuse
of power, in that here we have a supposed " leader of the nation " actually using it's power to impose it's self on those weaker than it is....
i suppose this a member of NAMBLA as well?
seems to fit the general profile.......
sorry if double posted, i typo'ed, lol
Posted by jimetattooist (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
People in Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones
Let us not forgot about two other unfortunate events in the 1980's that involved both a Democrat and Republican actually having sex with the pages! They were just censored and the Page system was supposed to have been fixed. Moreover, the Republican congressman resigned as he should have, but the Democrat went to serve out his term, which is dispicable to the say the least. The Democrats as usual are hypocrits. They are trying to trump up the charges to involve the speaker of the House, as well as other Republican leaders. So they should keep on digging on go back to the 1980's when they were supposed to have corrected the problem with libido driven politicians. So the Democrats should be careful with this charge, since this happened on their watch too and long ago.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well said.
You are right. Caligula slept with his sister for goodness sakes.
Nobody gets upset about that anymore. Since there is ample
precedent for this kind of thing, we should definitely give Foley a
pass, and simply not worry about the pages or the cover up or
anything else. Excellent point.
Posted by Mystigo (183 comments )
Link Flag
How about the GOP trying to impeach a Dem President for consensual sex, and now they are trying to hide and protect a member who is trying to solicit a minor? Why did they vote to not send this to the ethics comittee.

Talk about glass houses and throwing stones. If you are going to start waving the hypocrisy flag around, better take a good look first.
Posted by bemenaker (438 comments )
Link Flag
You are a disgrace
So, something like this happens, and all you morons can do is say... the democrats did this, the republicans did that!!!

You are a disgrace.

The sole concern here should be

1 To ensure justice is done.
2 Ensure no children are abused, by ensuring that systems are changed and reporting is mandatory

Further we should consider again whether our faith in state and church is justified. There are so many examples worldwide of this behaviour, from political and religious leaders, that one must wonder whether they really have anyone's interest at heart except themselves and their institutions.

And if this moves you only to talk about politics? You are a disgrace.
Posted by jezzur (191 comments )
Link Flag
He who yells loudest...
This shouldn't be a big surprise really, it so often seems that the person complaining about something the loudest is the one that is secretely hiding something... a sort of over-compensation to try and hide a part of themselves that they are uncomfortable with or embarrased about. It's like the classic example of the closet homesexual guy who is constantly gay-bashing and saying the most explicit comments about sex with women because he doesn't want anyone to know that he's gay.

It's for reasons like this that I'm always wary any time I hear someone championing a cause to extreme levels instead of taking a balanced and logical approach. Usually it's a sign that there is some kind of hidden agenda or secret they want protected.
Posted by Hoser McMoose (182 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thy who yells the loudest does have something to hide. Its just like with President Bill Clinton; he is now working on humaritan causes because he barely did anything about it during his eight years as president of the United States of America.
Posted by james.grimes (58 comments )
Link Flag
child predator?
I dont' get it. The boys were over the age of consent. He didn't
force anyone into anything they declined. No one can show
anything beyond him sitting at his computer having consentual
conversations. It was the parents that complained, not the former
pages. And the parents didn't want it to go any further! So, why
the stories, especially now that he apologized and resigned.
Sounds like the democrats are doing this for politics, they didnt'
complaian when Gerry Studds did more than just talk....
Posted by jeepwonder (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Age of consent
The age of consent depends on the other person's age. If one person is adult (over 18), sex with underage (under 18) may be considered statutory rape.
Posted by alegr (1590 comments )
Link Flag
Foley position
Was as a "superior" to the pages, so unwanted advances could be sexual harassment, and face it, the letters were kind of creepy. But you are right if the page's were of age and consenting then nothing "technically" wrong occurred. But, as a hypocritical champion of the children he set himself up for a fall.

Politicians need to stop obsessing about sex and children and stop quoting completely bogus numbers about some how many children are solicited online. There is no unbiased source for these numbers. No rigorous statistical survey exists.

In fact, as most politicians are too blindingly stupid as to actually understand the Internet, they should totally refrain from making any Internet specific laws. The current base of laws and common sense should sufficiently cover criminal behavior, whether it occurs in person or on the Internet.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
Link Flag
Read the article .
"The transcripts appear to show how Foley, 52, engaged in sexually explicit discussions with minors." Minor generally means under the age of consent.
Posted by duggerdm (103 comments )
Link Flag
Age of Consent
I am not sure that it has been established anywhere, whether the
pages involved were over the age of consent. Since none of them
have been personally identified, this remains an open issue. It
may also depend on the home states of the individuals involved,
or on the states in which the contacts occurred. My guess is,
that all the incidents to date, may have been technically legal.
The age of consent is 16 in most places (although notably 18 in
Florida which is where one of the pages is said to be from, and
18 in California where an incident is inferred).

However, at least one exchange involved Foley offering to obtain
alcohol for someone who was almost certainly under the age of
21. If he followed through with the offer, that is indeed a crime,
and depending on the frequency of occurrences, can lead to
some serious penalties.
Posted by Mystigo (183 comments )
Link Flag
Middle age v. Minor
I agree with most of what you stated; however, as a parent of a 16 yr old daughter who had a 42yr old man (who she babysat on many occasions) solicit her for sexual contact, immoral. I am appalled that a grown man who is by nature an authority figure come onto a minor, has not committed a crime in a state where the consenting age is 16. There is or rather should be a significant difference in a minor's reasoning versus a grown adult wit immense life experience to draw from...where is the protection in a case like this? There is none.
Posted by amyedwards (1 comment )
Link Flag
age of consent
The age of consent in Florida is, last I checked, 18 years old for adult-child sex.

While it's hardly clear what happened here, we can't assume that all the pages were "legal."
Posted by declan00 (848 comments )
Link Flag
ALL politicians are sleaze balls.. period
They all stand up on podiums and declare how dirty their opponites
are when in reality they ALL are nothing more than a bunch of
sleaze balls with thier own self serving agenda. Case in point, what
better way to pick-up young boys than to be the head of a youth
protectionist group..!! Now THAT's a self serving agenda..!!!
Posted by imacpwr (456 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give the Democrats Back Their Power Because it is Theirs
So Mark Foley wanted to screw a page. This is any different than the average low-life congress critter wanting the screw the taxpayer?

Leaking it now is nothing more than a ploy to convince the sheep in the voting booth to give the Democrats Back Their Power Because it is Rightfully Only Theirs.

Only when the sheep are duly shorn will they realize their mistake ... maybe not even then.
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shorn Indeed
When it comes to civil rights, it already feels a little drafty in here...
Posted by Mystigo (183 comments )
Link Flag
Funny stuff
People who rail against something very hard are usually doing it out of guilt or to try to keep some odd idea of moralistic high ground. For another sort of recent case look at Rush Limbaugh.

I wouldn't be surprised if James Dobson-the moralistic, fascist, homophopic, focus on the family idjit-was busted with a bunch of coke and 8 teenage male prostitutes in some seedy motel room.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Democrats trying to sway election again
The Democrats and their accomplices in the media are again pulling an October surprise and trying to sway the election. Foly never had sex with that intern, unlike Bill Clinton. A few years ago the demorats leaked lies about Bush having a DWI conviction.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Swift Veterans for "truth"
Remember the so called Swift Veterans for "truth" ?

Which side tried to sway the election with unfair tactics ?

I understand your frustration, but, sorry, turning the tables on Repugnicans is long overdue.
Posted by My-Self (242 comments )
Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.