Sunday, October 08, 2006

Foley Fallout: Who knew what?

New allegations came out yesterday focusing on what Dennis Hastert's chief of staff Scott Palmer knew about the sordid messages from Mark Foley to House pages and when he knew it. An unidentified house staffer alleges that Palmer met with Foley about the issue at the very least before November 2005, and probably years ago.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's chief of staff met with disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley to discuss the time and attention Foley was giving House pages years before the speaker's office admits becoming aware of the issue, a current House staffer told ABC News.

The staffer, who asked not be identified because of the ongoing FBI and House Ethics Committee investigations, told ABC News of learning in November 2005 about an earlier meeting between Hastert Chief of Staff Scott Palmer and Foley, R-Fla.

November 2005 was around the time Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., head of the House Page Board, and then-House Clerk Jeff Trandahl, who was administrator of the page program, met with Foley about an e-mail exchange Foley had with a former page sponsored by Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La.

"At that time, I became aware that there was a previous meeting" between Foley and Palmer, the House staffer told ABC News.

This is another example that Hastert's story, that he and his staff knew of the Foley situation only in the last weeks or months, is possibly unraveling.

With a House investigation into who knew what in the Foley scandal underway, Hastert's staff is downplaying the new developments until that probe is completed. "The House Standards Committee is investigating this matter and we are confident in its ability to determine the real facts," Hastert's communications director Ron Bonjean told Political Buzz.

Waiting for the House panel's findings won't satisfy voters though, as that Newsweek poll from earlier today showed. There may be some shake-ups before November if things don't change.


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