Reports Undercut Hastert on Foley Timeline

ByGeoff Morrell

Oct. 7, 2006 — -- Republicans had hoped House Speaker Dennis Hastert's "the buck stops here" speech last Thursday would ease some of the pressure on him, but the daily drip of the Mark Foley scandal continues to keep the focus on what Hastert and his staff knew and when did they know it.

Today, the Washington Post quoted an unnamed Congressional staffer who said Hastert Chief of Staff Scott Palmer, one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill, personally met with then-Rep. Foley, R-Fla., about his inappropriate contact with male pages. That meeting, the same source tells the Post, took place long before Hastert says his office was first alerted to "overly-friendly" e-mails Foley had sent to a Louisiana boy.

The New York Times also cites an anonymous Hill source who alleges Palmer was warned about Foley's troubling behavior well before Hastert has said his aides were first alerted in 2005.

Those two reports seem to back up former Foley Chief of Staff Kirk Fordham's account -- first told to ABC News -- that he warned Hastert's top aide about Foley's problems as far back as 2003.

Hastert's office is now declining to talk about specifics of the scandal, citing an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation, which was launched after Palmer denied Fordham's account.

A new Newsweek poll conducted since the Foley scandal broke seems to suggest the scandal is bad news for the GOP's prospects in next month's elections. The poll shows that 53 percent of Americans want the Democrats to win control of Congress, including 10 percent of Republicans.

In addition, for the first time since 2001, the Newsweek poll shows more Americans trust the Democrats than the GOP on moral issues and the war in terror.

Perhaps the only glimmer of hope for Republicans is that the election is still four weeks away -- a lifetime in politics.

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