Congressman Mark Foley Resigns in Sex Scandal Involving a Teenage Page Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Congressman Mark Foley resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives when it was discovered that he sent sexually explicit e-mails and text messages to at least one teenage boy who was serving as a congressional page. The resignation triggered investigations into how House leadership addressed earlier accusations. Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, did not return for another term, and Republican seats in the House may have been lost because of the scandal.

Summary of Event

The House Page Program, a unique opportunity for students in their junior year of high school to live in Washington, D.C., allows students to experience the inner workings of the U.S. House of Representatives. Pages run errands for House members, assist with telephone calls in the cloakroom, and assist on the House floor as needed. In addition to working on Capitol Hill, pages also attend academic classes. [kw]Foley Resigns in Sex Scandal Involving a Teenage Page, Congressman Mark (Sept. 29, 2006) [kw]Sex Scandal Involving a Teenage Page, Congressman Mark Foley Resigns in (Sept. 29, 2006) Trandahl, Jeff Foley, Mark Congress, U.S.;Mark Foley[Foley] Trandahl, Jeff Foley, Mark Congress, U.S.;Mark Foley[Foley] [g]United States;Sept. 29, 2006: Congressman Mark Foley Resigns in Sex Scandal Involving a Teenage Page[03680] [c]Government;Sept. 29, 2006: Congressman Mark Foley Resigns in Sex Scandal Involving a Teenage Page[03680] [c]Politics;Sept. 29, 2006: Congressman Mark Foley Resigns in Sex Scandal Involving a Teenage Page[03680] [c]Sex crimes;Sept. 29, 2006: Congressman Mark Foley Resigns in Sex Scandal Involving a Teenage Page[03680] [c]Public morals;Sept. 29, 2006: Congressman Mark Foley Resigns in Sex Scandal Involving a Teenage Page[03680] Hastert, Dennis

The program has been in place for more than two hundred years. At its inception, only males could serve as pages, but in 1973, female pages earned a permanent place in the program. Until the early 1980’s, pages were responsible for finding their own lodging and were largely unsupervised after leaving work. In 1982, however, a page commission recommended creating a residence hall near Capitol Hill for all pages so they could be properly supervised. Concurrently, the commission also recommended the establishment of a page board, comprising current members of the House, to oversee the program and to provide adequate supervision and protection for the pages. Approximately seventy-two pages serve in a given year, and the program is administered by the clerk of the House. The daily activities are overseen by the residence-hall staff and school and work staff.

Pages serve on the House floor and are in contact with members on a regular basis. Many members become mentors to the pages, providing a unique glimpse into the life of a representative. As early as 2000, Mark Foley was noted for his involvement with the pages, and there was a general feeling among the staff of the Page Program that Foley was becoming too familiar with the pages. Jeff Trandahl served as clerk of the House from 1999 to 2005. According to a later report of the House Committee on the Standards for Official Conduct, Trandahl testified that Foley “was a distraction and was interfering with the program” and that he “failed to keep a professional distance from the pages.”

Mark Foley, right, at a 2003 press conference in Washington, D.C.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

Foley also reportedly visited the Page Residence Hall on more than one occasion. One evening, in June, 2000, two or more pages got into Foley’s car and left the grounds of the residence hall. The pages returned not long after. Trandahl warned Foley to stay away from the pages.

In the fall of 2001, a former page (who remained anonymous) appointed by Representative Jim Kolbe contacted Kolbe’s office to report that he had been communicating with Foley via e-mail since the end of his time as a page. The former page viewed the communications as a means of networking, but he had also received an e-mail from Foley that made him uncomfortable. He reported this to Kolbe’s office and asked that someone handle the situation. He subsequently received an e-mail of apology from Foley but continued his communications with the Congress member. However, he was not the only page with whom Foley maintained contact.

In 2005, another former page contacted his sponsor, Representative Rodney Alexander, to report on the nature of the e-mails he was receiving from Foley. The former page told a staff member that Foley’s e-mails were “starting to freak [him] out.” The House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, and clerk were both notified of the e-mails and the parents’ request that the matter be handled quietly.

After talking with Alexander’s office, Trandahl and Representative John Shimkus, chairman of the Page Board, approached Foley regarding the e-mails. He was told to stop communications with the former page and to cease any involvement in the page program.

On September 29, 2006, ABC News contacted Foley’s office and informed his staff that it was in possession of instant-message exchanges between Foley and a former page that were sexually explicit. Foley’s staff had a meeting regarding the messages. Foley resigned that same day, left Washington, D.C., and admitted himself into rehabilitation for alcoholism. The identity of the page involved in the exchange was not revealed, but the instant messages became widely known after being posted on various blogs and through media outlets.

The exchange of messages was the culmination of years of questionable behavior by Foley. Although he never was found to have had physical contact with current or former House pages, he had clearly crossed a line. A House ethics committee report of December, 2006, stated, “Such conduct is an abuse of power, and an abuse of trust of the pages, their parents or guardians, and the Congress itself.” Because Foley resigned from the House, no official action could be taken against him by that government body.

Impact

Foley was not the first House member involved in a scandal involving underage pages. In 1982, Daniel Crane and Gerry Studds were both censured by the House following an investigation that revealed they had each engaged in a sexual relationship with pages. Crane apologized for the affair he had with a seventeen-year-old girl but lost his seat in Congress in the 1984 election. Studds admitted to an affair with a male page that occurred in 1973 and announced to the House that he was gay. He was reelected in 1984 and continued to serve in the House until 1997. On the heels of the 1982 scandal, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill formed a page commission, leading to major changes to the program in an effort to protect the pages. Positive changes included housing all pages in a dormitory located on Capitol Hill and implementing a page board to oversee activities of the page program. An official page code of conduct was developed, allowing for the immediate dismissal of any page found in violation of program rules.

Following the Foley scandal, the House Page Program was reevaluated and further changes were made to the composition of the page board. Two members from each political party (Democratic and Republican), as well as the House clerk, the sergeant at arms, a page parent, and a page alumnus, now serve on the board. House leadership hoped that making necessary changes would prevent a similar incident from occurring and would improve communication regarding the welfare of pages. Trandahl, Jeff Foley, Mark Congress, U.S.;Mark Foley[Foley]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Abrams, Jim. “House Leaders Investigate Page Program.” The Washington Post, December 13, 2007. Amid a new page scandal and the resignation of two members of the page board, the House again called for a reevaluation of the program.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Amer, Mildred. “Pages of the United States Congress: History, Background Information, and Proposals for Change.” CRS Report for Congress, February 6, 2007. Describes the page program and highlights changes that have been made or proposed since the Mark Foley scandal of 2006.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Babington, Charles, and Jonathan Weisman. “Rep. Foley Quits in Page Scandal.” The Washington Post, September 30, 2006. Follows the resignation of Foley and examines the roles played in the case by congressional leadership.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Long, Kim. The Almanac of Political Corruption, Scandals, and Dirty Politics. New York: Delacorte Press, 2007. A wide-ranging book detailing the various scandals and corrupt practices that have plagued U.S. politics.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Turley, Jonathan. “A Page Protection Act: The Path to Saving a Historic Program.” Roll Call, October 5, 2006. Written by a page alum and legal professor. Addresses problems with the page board and discusses possible remedies to maintain the program.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">United States Congress. House of Representatives. Committee on the Standards of Official Conduct. Investigation of Allegations Related to Improper Conduct Involving Members and Current or Former House Pages. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006. Committee report written in response to the Foley scandal. Examines whether the lack of response from others in the House was a breach of ethics rules.

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