An ethics committee in the House of Representatives meets Thursday amid the continuing scandal involving a former U.S. congressman, Mark Foley, and sexually explicit e-mails he allegedly sent to congressional pages. The scandal has claimed a senior staffer to a key Republican who resigned on Wednesday, as federal authorities move to examine e-mails and other records as part of their investigation
The resignation of Kirk Fordham, chief of staff to Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds, comes slightly less than a week after Foley abruptly resigned amid revelations about e-mails he sent to teenage male congressional pages.
Fordham was a longtime chief of staff to Foley, before working for Reynolds, who heads the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee responsible for overseeing efforts to maintain the Republican majority in Congress.
Since the scandal broke, there have been allegations that Republicans, encouraged or helped by key staff members, tried to keep the story quiet to protect Foley and others.
In a written statement, Fordham denies trying to stop any investigation by House officials or authorities, adding he resigned to avoid becoming a political issue for Democrats.
The development comes as the Department of Justice steps up its investigation, ordering House officials to preserve all records in Foley's office.
House Republicans had already vowed to cooperate fully with the investigation.
But the Republican House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, continues to face calls to resign, with some conservative leaders and organizations asserting he failed to act soon enough after learning of Foley's activities with teenage pages.
Questions remain too about explanations Hastert and others, including Congressman Reynolds, have given about when they received information and what they did with it.
Hastert received support Wednesday from some key House Republicans, Congressman Mike Pence and Joe Pitts, who called him a man of integrity
who should not resign.
On Thursday, the bipartisan House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the Ethics Committee, meets behind closed doors to consider the Foley matter.
It will meet in the wake of another potentially significant development late Wednesday, an Associated Press report quoting Fordham as saying he alerted the speaker's senior staff two years ago about Foley's conduct.
Responding to that, a Hastert spokesman said the Speaker "fully expects" that the Ethics Committee "will do what it needs to do to investigate this matter and protect the integrity of the House."
With less than five weeks to go before the November 7th congressional election, in which Republicans are already in danger of losing control of one or both chambers of Congress, the scandal poses the risk of further damage.
A Reuter/Zogby poll, one of many in the run-up to the election, showed Democrats leading Republican candidates in 11 of 15 state races that could decide control of the House. Democrats need to gain 15 seats to gain control there, and six in the Senate.
After resigning, Foley checked into an alcohol and mental health facility. His lawyer said [Tuesday] that the former lawmaker had been molested as a teenager by a clergyman.
The attorney also provided the first public acknowledgment that Foley is a homosexual. He added that Foley accepts full responsibility for his actions.