Monday, November 22, 2010

As Good A Time As Any To Revisit Shimkus' Role In The Mark Foley-Congressional Pages Scandal


We've already remarked how a death match struggle between Fred Upton (R-MI) and oily Joe Barton (R-TX) over who gets to chair the super-lucrative House Energy and Commerce Committee could result in the unlikely ascension of demented Illinois religious fanatic John Shimkus to that post. First thing every morning, Shimkus rushes to the twitter and lets loose with something like this:

Every morning. Wonderers sometimes wonder what made Shimkus so god-fearin'? Obviously I don't know. There was no twitter back when I first started paying attention to Congressman Shimkus years after he managed to win the House seat, by the narrowest of margins (50.3-49.7%) given up by Dick Durbin when Durbin ran for the U.S. Senate. What brought the colorless Shimkus to my attention in 2006 weren't any of his small town shenanigans on the Commerce Committee-- like getting B-20, the soybean-diesel fuel blend, qualified for the alternative fuels program or persuading Bush to scuttle the EPA rules that controlled mercury emissions from coal-fired generators. It was his role in the Mark Foley scandal. No, don't worry; Shimkus isn't gay. What he is, is a slouch and a partisan sneak who abandoned his duty and allowed god-only-knows-how-many underage boys to fall into Foley's predatory grasp.

It all started when Shimkus was the head of a less lucrative committee than Energy and Commerce, the 3-member Page Board, a small unheralded one whose one task was to look after the well-being of the congressional pages, all of whom are high school students. Denny Hastert appointed Shimkus to head it and the 2 other members were Republican Shelley Moore Capito and Democrat Dale Kildee, who had served on it for two decades. In 2005 Shimkus claims he first became aware of Foley's uncontrollable lust for underage boys. Shimkus and Capito carefully kept Kildee out of the discussions about the unfolding Foley scandal they were trying to keep contained. After the scandal broke, Hastert ineptly presided over an attempted GOP cover-up. It backfired and helped guarantee that the Republicans would lose the midterm elections. He asked Shimkus, who had already had the wool pulled over his eyes by Foley regarding inappropriate e-mails and pictures of sixteen year old pages. The Republicans were desperate to cover-up the fact that Foley was actually having sex with the boys and the whole Capitol Hill system circled the wagons on that one. "We want to make sure that all our pages are safe and the page system is safe," Hastert said.
ABC News reported Friday that Foley also engaged in a series of sexually explicit instant messages with current and former pages, all male. In one message, ABC said, Foley wrote to one page, "Do I make you a little horny?"

In another message, Foley wrote, "You in your boxers, too? ... Well, strip down and get relaxed."

Foley, as chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had introduced legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. He also sponsored other legislation designed to protect minors from abuse and neglect.

"We track library books better than we do sexual predators," Foley has said.

Foley, who represented an area around Palm Beach County, e-mailed the page in August 2005. Foley asked him how he was doing after Hurricane Katrina and what he wanted for his birthday. The congressman also asked the boy to send a photo of himself, according to excerpts of the e-mails that were originally released by ABC News.

The e-mails were posted Friday on the Web site of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington after ABC News reported their existence.

Naomi Seligman, a spokeswoman for CREW, said the group also sent a letter to the FBI after it received the e-mails. CREW did not post their copies of the e-mail until ABC News reported them, instead waiting for the investigation.

"The House of Representatives has an obligation to protect the teenagers who come to Congress to learn about the legislative process," the group wrote.

According to the CREW posting, the boy e-mailed a colleague in Alexander's office about Foley's e-mails, saying, "This freaked me out." On the request for a photo, the boy repeated the word "sick" 13 times.

Shimkus got Foley to promise he would cease all contact with the 16 year old. Capito, who called the e-mails "disgusting," did nothing to alert Kildee or in any way rock the cover-up boat Hastert and Shimkus were launching. "I became aware of it this afternoon [September 29th] when [Shimkus] came by my office. I think we should have had a page meeting right away," Kildee said, referring to the 2005 discovery of Foley's e-mails. When asked if he was upset about being excluded, Kildee said yes, adding, "I've been on the page board for 20 years." Shimkus is a little defensive about his shameful role in the episode. "I'm the chairman of the page board," Shimkus said when asked why he didn't include Kildee. "The Clerk and I addressed this issue." A week later he said "I think, based on the information I had, what I did was fine. If I regret something, maybe I should have had Dale [Kildee] with me because now it’s going to be a political football."

At first he lawyered up and lied about knowledge of the e-mails but it eventually leaked out that he had read them and had done his best to cover-up the whole mess at Hastert's direction. His disingenuous testimony in front of the House Ethics Committee goes a long way towards indicating what kind of a committee chairman he will make.
Shimkus has gone on record that he made the highly partisan decision to keep non-Republicans on the page committee in the dark about Foley’s behavior. Do these morons realize that while bringing a Dem into the deliberations might’ve jeopardized Foley’s career if word leaked out–not bringing a Dem into said deliberations has perfectly insulated Dems from any involvement or blame for this fiasco. So instead of jeopardizing the career of a single House member by informing a Dem, they’ve jeopardized the careers of Foley, Hastert, Reynolds, Shimkus and Pryce, to name but a few who have gone or may go down in November or thereabouts.

The only one of them still in Congress, thanks to the happy soy bean farmers and coal burners in southern Illinois, is Shimkus, who can "Amen" all he wants but will never wipe away the fact that because of him underage boys were at the mercy of a Republican colleague he was trying to protect, something inappropriate in America, even if it is just par for the course Inside the Beltway.

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