Page Program Has Seen Scandal Before

ByABC News
September 29, 2006, 8:05 PM

Sept. 29, 2006 — -- Sex scandals on Capitol Hill are nothing new. And if the allegations against Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., prove true, he would not even be the first member of Congress to pursue an inappropriate relationship with a page.

In 1983, two lawmakers were censured by the House of Representatives for having sexual relationships with teenage pages. Rep. Dan Crane, R-Ill., admitted to sexual relations with a 17-year-old female page, while Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., admitted to sexual relations with a 17-year-old male page.

The ways each lawmaker handled the scandal -- and the consequences they faced afterward -- were very different. Crane apologized for his actions, saying, "I'm human" and "I only hope my wife and children will forgive me." He was subsequently voted out of office in 1984.

Studds, who was openly gay, said the relationship was consensual and charged that the investigation by the House Ethics Committee raised fundamental questions of privacy. He won re-election the following year -- in a more liberal district than Crane's -- and served in Congress until his retirement in 1996.

The scandals had repercussions for congressional pages as well. The Congressional Page Program -- which has been around for more than 150 years -- was overhauled and a board was created to monitor it. A dormitory for pages was created near the Capitol.

Pages are high school juniors at least 16 years old and are sponsored by a member of the House or Senate for either one or two semesters, or for the summer. They serve as messengers, passing notes and delivering documents. They wear uniforms and attend a special "page school" during the school year. It is a paid position.

Today House Speaker Dennis Hastert said that he had asked Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., the current head of the Page Board, to look into the issue and make sure that all the pages were "safe."

Asked for his general reaction to Foley's resignation and the allegations surrounding him, Hastert said simply: "None of us are very happy about it."