WASHINGTON – More teenagers want to be congressional pages despite a sex scandal last fall when a congressman resigned after questions over inappropriate communication with male pages, a news report revealed Wednesday.
Former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., stepped down from his congressional post after explicit e-mail exchanges between him and male pages surfaced. A congressional investigation followed and changes were made to ensure the safety of the program's future. Last week, President Bush signed into law the bill reforming the program's administration.
Despite the Foley scandal, more teenagers are interested in the program, according to a report from Politico, a new Washington-based newspaper that focuses on politics. Congressional officials say the increase from young people eager to work on Capitol Hill can be linked to the publicity drawn to the program from the scandal.
"Since then, there's been more interest from the general public calling about it, and there's been more interest from members on how they go about nominating someone for the program," said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, which handles questions about the House page program.
"I don't think it's surprising," Hammill told the newspaper. "It's an incredible opportunity for a high school junior to come to the Capitol and be so close to the legislative process."
Officials with the Senate page program also have handled more inquiries, according to Politico. They attributed the increased interest mainly to news reports about the program in the wake of the Foley affair.
"We have seen a slight increase in requests for information about the program since last fall," said Elizabeth Roach, director of the Senate page program.
Staffers in both Republican and Democratic House offices also have reportedly answered more calls about the program in recent months.
"I would've thought it [would be] lower," said Marilyn Campbell, a spokeswoman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen., D-Md., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
"Maybe it's just more publicity; that's what I would guess. People didn't know about it before and now are suddenly more interested."
Changes to the page program included adding a parent of a page and a former page to the Page Board as well as an additional minority party lawmaker. The board is also directed to meet on a regular basis.