House investigators to question chief congressional overseer of page program

The chief overseer of a program for teenage congressional assistants, who says he tried to stop a congressman from e-mailing one of the underage assistants in late 2005, is ready to explain his actions to House investigators.

Republican Congressman John Shimkus is scheduled for questioning Friday before the House of Representatives' ethics committee. The scandal comes just weeks before Nov. 7 elections in which Republicans are working to keep their majority in both chambers of Congress.

Shimkus says he kept the two other House members overseeing the assistants, called pages, in the dark as he confronted Republican Congressman Mark Foley last fall. Shimkus, chairman of the House Page Board, said he was following the wishes of the boy's parents by not telling the other members.

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. Foley resigned Sept. 29 after he was confronted with sexually explicit instant messages sent to former male pages.

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, reports AP.

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.