Tom Reynolds, meet your chief of staff

The NRCC chairman claims he didn't authorize Kirk Fordham to have dealings with Foley. Fordham says otherwise.

Published October 4, 2006 2:10PM (EDT)

The communications director for Rep. Tom Reynolds still hasn't answered any of our questions about Reynolds' chief of staff's role in Foleygate, but the Los Angeles Times has been able to pull together some of the pieces for us.

It's one of the more intriguingly entangling alliances of the Foley case: Just as the Foley scandal is hitting the press, Kirk Fordham, the chief of staff for the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, somehow finds himself advising Foley, his former boss, on how to keep the worst of the worst out of the public's view. As ABC's Brian Ross has explained, Fordham tried to cut a deal with him: You don't reveal Foley's explicit IM exchanges with former pages, and I'll get you an "exclusive" on the news that Foley is resigning from Congress. Ross, knowing the difference between a great story and a good one, declined Fordham's generous offer.

So why was Fordham involved in the first place? Reynolds tells the Times that Fordham was freelancing. "I didn't give him permission to have any conversations that he's had at any time with Mark Foley, either as his friend or as his former employer," he says. If that seems a little improbable, well, it is. As the Times explains, Fordham has told the Associated Press that he confronted Foley about the instant messages. When Foley admitted that they were "probably" authentic, Fordham says he took the news straight to Reynolds, who told him to tell Foley that he had to resign. The NRCC drafted a resignation letter for Foley, and the Times says it was presented to him at a meeting with Fordham and Foley's sister Friday afternoon.

You'll note here that Reynolds and Fordham aren't just contradicting each other. They're also contradicting House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who seems perfectly capable of contradicting himself without any help from anyone else. Hastert, you'll recall, has said that "we" ordered Foley to resign -- but also that Foley resigned before anyone could tell him to do so.

Fordham has a lawyer now -- good thinking, there -- and the lawyer is working hard to draw the line behind covering up news of potential criminal activity and just sparing a politician's family some public humiliation. "It was never an attempt to obstruct justice," Fordham's lawyer said Tuesday when asked about his client's failed deal with ABC. "It was an attempt to shield his boss from the political storm."

OK, fine, but to which "boss" are you referring, counselor?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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