Democratic Congressional Candidate Criticizes GOP Over Foley

A Democratic congressional candidate whose son was abducted 17 years ago said GOP congressional leadership failed to protect teenage House pages from former Rep. Mark Foley's advances.

"Foley sent obvious predatory signals, received loud and clear by members of congressional leadership, who swept them under the rug to protect their political power," Minnesota Democrat Patty Wetterling charged in her party's weekly radio address Saturday.

"If a teacher did this and the principal was told but did nothing, once the community found out, that principal would be fired."

Wetterling, running for an open seat against Republican state Sen. Michele Bachmann, is already airing a hard-hitting television ad over revelations that Foley, R-Fla., had been sending inappropriate e-mails to teenage pages for years.

"We need a new direction in Congress because our children need strong voices," Wetterling said in the radio address. "We need to stop the sexual exploitation of children across the country, and in Washington we must hold accountable all those complicit in allowing this victimization to happen."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has rejected calls to resign, saying he hasn't done anything wrong. Republicans, including President Bush, have closed ranks around Hastert in recent days.

Hastert had blamed Democrats for the election-season revelations, but on Thursday abruptly changed course and took responsibility for the matter.

In a Newsweek poll released Saturday, 52 percent said they believe that Hastert was aware of Foley's inappropriate messages to pages and tried to cover them up. Forty-two percent said they trust Democrats to do a better job of handling moral values, while 36 percent said they trust Republicans more.

Wetterling's 11-year-old son, Jacob, was abducted in 1989 on a rural road. Despite a massive search effort, Jacob was never seen or heard from again. The loss transformed Wetterling from a stay-at-home mom to a national advocate for missing children.

"For 17 years, I have fought for tough penalties for those who harm children," Wetterling said. "Members of Congress are not and should not be above the law."