WASHINGTON – Illinois Rep. John Shimkus on Friday said he and probably many others would have acted differently about allegations surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley, but maintained that he did not learn of any inappropriate behavior by the congressman until he saw portions of e-mails in 2005 from the Louisiana family of a former page.
"When the [House] clerk showed me excerpts of the e-mails from the family in Louisiana that this family was concerned of, that was the first time that I had any indications that I needed to address Congressman Foley," Shimkus told reporters after finishing a meeting with House ethics investigators.
Asked if he would have done anything differently, he said: "I think there's stuff that everybody would have done differently ... Twenty-twenty hindsight's always perfect, so having twenty-twenty hindsight, a lot of things would have been different," he said.
Shimkus, the chief of the House Page Board, spent nearly four hours talking to the ethics investigators who want to find out who knew what about Foley's inappropriate behavior toward House pages, and when they knew about it.
Shimkus is the fifth person in three days to testify to members and staff of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which is looking into allegations about Foley and whether House members have been forthcoming about their knowledge of the former congressman.
Foley resigned Sept. 29, a day after ABC News aired a piece about the e-mails Foley sent to the Louisiana teen and as news organizations were getting ready to go public with sexually explicit instant messages he sent to other formerly teenage male House pages.
The scandal comes just weeks before Nov. 7 elections in which Republicans are working to keep their majority in both chambers of Congress.
Shimkus has also said he kept the two other House members overseeing the assistants, called pages, in the dark as he confronted Foley last fall.
Friday, Shimkus said it was his decision for only him and the House clerk to confront Foley, instead of bringing others into the matter..
A four-member ethics investigating panel, operating in closed session, is hearing key witnesses with knowledge of how Republicans handled several alarms raised about Foley's conduct over the past five years.
Polls show most Americans say the House Republican leadership worried more about politics than the safety of teenage pages. However, most also say Democrats would not have handled the situation better.
Democrats need to gain 15 seats to take control of the House of Representatives and six to take power in the Senate. All 435 House seats are up for election on Nov. 7, as are 33 of the 100 Senate seats.
On Thursday, Foley's one-time chief of staff testified before the investigative panel for nearly five hours Thursday. Kirk Fordham has said publicly that he raised alarms with House Speaker Dennis Hastert's top aide nearly three years ago.
Fordham would not comment on his testimony. His extensive knowledge of Foley's actions include the Florida Republican's attempt to enter the page dorm while drunk several years ago, one of the events that triggered several alarms raised by Fordham with House officials, according to a source familiar with Fordham's actions and knowledge.
Hastert, a Republican, has said he learned of inappropriate approaches by Foley in late September and his aides found out in the fall of 2005. Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, has denied that Fordham contacted him at least three years ago, contradicting Fordham and creating one of the major conflicts the committee must resolve.
Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said after Fordham's testimony: "The ethics committee is investigating this matter and we are confident in its ability to determine the real facts. The speaker has said that any person who is found guilty of improper conduct involving sexual contact or communication with a page should immediately resign, be fired, or be subjected to a vote of expulsion."
Fordham has made several public statements on his actions and has been questioned by the FBI.
The Page Board consists of three lawmakers and two House officers who set policy for the program that brings teenagers to Congress to attend school and perform errands in the chamber during sessions. The board does not, however, provide daily supervision of the pages, leaving that to House staff members.
Shimkus' office said that he and then-House clerk Jeff Trandahl — who also was on the board — confronted Foley in his office last fall after hearing from Hastert's aides about the overly friendly e-mail to the former Louisiana page. Shimkus said he told Foley to cease all contact with the teenager.
The uninformed members of the page board were Congressman Dale Kildee, a Democrat, and Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican.
"I think Congressman Shimkus acted in an expedited manner to find out what happened," while respecting the wishes of the family, Hastert said in support of Shimkus' decision to keep the two other lawmakers out of the loop.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.