WASHINGTON – An aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Wednesday went before ethics investigators in private to explain how the office handled complaints about former Rep. Mark Foley's behavior toward former pages.
Ted Van Der Meid, who oversaw the page program for Hastert, R-Ill., appears to be one of the last witnesses. The House ethics panel is investigating whether lawmakers and staff aides acted properly when learning of Foley's too-friendly messages to ex-pages and other possible inappropriate behavior.
The panel is in its third week of hearing testimony and seems unlikely to complete its probe before the Nov. 7 elections.
Van Der Meid was a central figure in the handling of a complaint last fall from a former page from Louisiana. Hastert's office was alerted to the "over friendly" e-mails and dispatched then-Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., to confront Foley, R-Fla.
Former top Foley aide Kirk Fordham has told the committee that Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, knew of earlier incidents involving Foley.
Foley abruptly resigned Sept. 29 after being confronted with sexually explicit e-mails sent in 2003 to a former page from Oklahoma.
No lawmaker has acknowledged knowing of sexually graphic e-mails. They surfaced only after news broke that Foley last fall had sent a too-friendly message to the former Louisiana page. But a small group of lawmakers and top GOP staff aides have known for years of inappropriate messages and rumors of bad behavior by Foley toward pages.
Rather than investigating Foley, the four-member investigative panel is trying to determine who knew about his behavior toward pages and whether more should have been done to stop it.
Trandahl was appointed to the clerk's post — with responsibility over the page program a prominent responsibility — and was in frequent contact with Hastert's office.
A key question for investigators is who else knew about Foley. Fordham's account has been disputed by Palmer, but Trandahl reportedly has backed up Fordham's story.
The panel may want to know what Van Der Meid knew about earlier incidents regarding Foley.
For example, the panel has been asked to look into rumors that several years ago Foley tried to enter the page dorm while drunk, an incident that Fordham has testified about.
Trandahl and Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., learned in 2001 or 2002 of an episode in which Foley sent an ex-page inappropriate e-mails.
In those instances, Foley's inappropriate behavior with former pages have been handled by a few staff aides and lawmakers, rather than being investigated more fully. Foley's misbehavior did not cease.
The panel heard Tuesday from Hastert, who urged it to wrap up its investigation quickly. He said he answered questions to the best of his ability, but his recollection differs from other GOP leaders.
Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House GOP campaign chairman Tom Reynolds of New York have said they discussed with Hastert the "over friendly" e-mails from Foley to the Louisiana teen; the speaker says he does not recall the conversations.
Separately, Foley's attorney's revealed Wednesday that he is being treated for alcoholism at a facility in Tucson, Ariz. Foley has been in a 30-day treatment program at the Sierra Tucson treatment center since Oct. 1.