DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- House Majority Leader John Boehner on Friday accused Democrats of endangering House pages for political gain.
Boehner, speaking at a campaign event for 3rd District Republican candidate Jeff Lamberti, said Democratic operatives have known about inappropriate e-mails sent by former Rep. Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, to young male pages for some time. He said Democrats had been shopping the information around Washington as a political ploy.
"Someone who had this information allowed those 16-year-old pages to be at risk while they were playing their political games," said Boehner, R-Ohio. "I do not believe thus far that Republicans knew about these sexually explicit instant messages."
Boehner, a 16-year veteran of the House, found himself at the center of the page scandal when he claimed to have talked with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, about improper contact between Foley and the pages.
Hastert said he doesn't recall the conversation with Boehner.
Republican leaders are facing criticism that they had known about Foley's sexually explicit e-mails to pages but neglected to do anything about it for months or even years.
Boehner said he volunteered to testify before the ethics committee about the Foley matter and although a date hasn't been set, he expects it to be next week.
He said he planned to tell committee members what they already know, that he had a conversation with a House member from Louisiana about contact between Foley and a former page.
"I had a conversation with a member from Louisiana about some contact between Foley and a former page and the fact that the parents didn't wish it to be pursued," Boehner said. "I believe I passed that on to the speaker."
Boehner acknowledged the page scandal has been a distraction for candidates in several districts but said the focus should turn to issues such as budget reform.
"In our business you have to play the hand you're dealt," he said. "I think it's time for House Republicans to move on to issues that voters care about."
The scandal comes only weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm election in which Democrats are working to wrest control from Republicans in at least one chamber of Congress.
In the House, Democrats need a 15-seat pickup to gain control. In the Senate, they need six.
Lamberti, who relinquished his seat as Republican president of the evenly divided Iowa Senate to run against incumbent Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell, said he has no qualms about campaigning with Washington politicians in the midst of scandal.
"The people of Iowa are some of the most sophisticated voters in the country," he said. "They're going to look at the two candidates in this race and decide who's going to make real change in Washington."
Lamberti said much of his campaign is focusing on reforming the budget process in Washington to eliminate secret earmarks of federal funds.
He called on Boehner to campaign with him in Iowa because Boehner claims to be the only member of Congress to never have requested an earmark.
Lamberti said his plan for reform would require members of Congress to attach their name to any spending request in their district and to give 48 hours public notice of a spending request included in legislation.
"It will be an improved process for getting things done rather than adding it in the middle of the night when the public in particular doesn't know what things are being voted on or in bills until after the vote is taken," he said.
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