Report: GOP congressman knew of Foley's problem six years ago

A spokeswoman for Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe confirms that he confronted Foley about inappopriate exchanges with a former page in 2000.

Published October 9, 2006 12:57PM (EDT)

Two weeks ago? In the spring? Last fall?

Try the year 2000.

A spokesman for Rep. Jim Kolbe has told the Washington Post that the Arizona Republican learned six years ago that Rep. Mark Foley had engaged in inappropriate electronic exchanges with a former page. Kolbe spokeswoman Korenna Cline says that her boss personally confronted Foley about the messages at the time.

If the Post's story holds up, it pretty much obliterates the timeline that House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office put out on Sept. 30 -- the one that implied that House Republicans got their first hint of Foley's problems in the fall of 2005. That said, it's not clear yet whether Kolbe communicated with anyone in the House aside from Foley himself about the 2000 e-mail messages. Cline tells the Post that "corrective action" was taken in 2000, but that she doesn't know yet whether it involved anyone beyond Kolbe and Foley.

It's also not yet clear how explicit the 2000 messages were -- that is, if they were like the instant messages that ended Foley's career a week ago or more like the "overfriendly" e-mail messages House Republicans saw but didn't do much about over the course of the last year. A source with "direct knowledge" of Kolbe's involvement in the episode has read the messages in question to the Post, but the paper stops short of characterizing them one way or another. The Post says its source describes the messages as sexually explicit but that Cline denies that characterization.

By Tim Grieve

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

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