Social Issues / Mark Foley'S Congressional Page Scandal

Mark Foley'S Congressional Page Scandal

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Autor:  anton  06 April 2011
Tags:  Foleys,  Congressional,  Scandal
Words: 1889   |   Pages: 8
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Research Paper - Mark Foley Congressional Page Scandal

If there is one thing that members of Congress are no stranger too, it’s the potential impact of a public scandal involving a member of either the House or the Senate. The impact of these scandals can be far reaching and very public. Many things come into play when a scandal is brought to light in the public eye. The way a party reacts to the incident is very important; many in Congress want to distance themselves as far as possible from any such scandal, placing blame on others but not on the group as a whole. Even though, many would rather see their party damaged than themselves. The effects that it can have on the public opinion and eventually Congress can play a big part in how the current Legislative Branch operates and in some cases it affects who it is composed of. One of the more recent and important scandals that shook the Congress was the Mark Foley Congressional Page scandal. The scandal surrounding Mark Foley’s illicit messages to the young House Pages was a key issue in allowing the Democratic Party to gain a House majority in the 2006 Congressional Elections.

To understand how this happened we must look at the institutions that it affected and how it played a part in allowing this scandal to impact the elections outcome. It is important to acknowledge that all of these issues and institutions play an intricate part with each other, it is nearly impossible to talk about the impact on one institution without evaluating the effects that it had on another. Obviously, in the few months prior to any American political election public opinion is extremely important to many candidates; this is the only thing that keeps them in an elected office. There are few times in history that the outcome of an election and the opinions of the voters have been directly impacted from a Legislative scandal. We expect that there will always be members of Congress that will lie, cheat, take bribes, and commit any number of other crimes. But even when a Congressman’s actions are deemed legal they can have a long lasting and powerful effect on people’s mindsets when they step into that voting both. Here we will evaluate one such instance of those opinions playing a part in determining the restructuring of one of America’s oldest and greatest institutions.

Mark Foley 52, a Republican from the West Palm Beach area of Florida, resigned in September of 2006 after the public disclosure of sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages between him and former Congressional Pages that went back at least three years. He then entered an in-patient rehabilitation facility for alcohol abuse and behavior problems at an undisclosed location where he stayed for 30 days. His attorney claimed that Mr. Foley was abused by a Clergyman as a teenager but accepts responsibility for sending sexually explicit correspondence to the boys. He also acknowledged publicly for the first time what many in Washington already knew: That Foley is gay (Kumar).

Needless to say that the scandal gave Democrats a strong chance of capturing the Palm Beach Florida seat, a seat once considered a virtual lock for Foley who has served in the House for six consecutive terms. Public opinion was drastically affected in and around Foley’s district. Many of the voters expressed their discontent to the fact that not only did Foley get away with these activities for so long, but also because it seemed like the leaders of the Republican Party not only knew of his actions before hand, but also neglected to act on the information. “When you have a member of Congress abusing his authority and his positions with the Pages, and you have leaders of Congress looking the other way – protecting their majority instead of protecting the Pages – people here saw that and said, that’s the final straw” (Nagourney). But how exactly did this scandal effect voters and how they acted in the 2006 elections. The timing of the incident was very crucial to the Democratic victory. This scandal became public in late September of 2006, just months from the election.

The effect that this scandal had on America was not limited to the Districts of Florida in which Foley served, but rather it impacted the entire country. Nowhere was the GOP’s task more daunting than in Ohio, where five House seats were now up for grabs. This Scandal effected many other states as well, in 2004 President Bush pulled in 68% of the Presidential election votes from Idaho, and in 2004 the state had an all GOP Congressional Delegation. So needless to say, America does not get more Republican than Idaho. But to keep one of Idaho’s seats in Republican hands in 2006, the national GOP poured in hundreds of thousands of dollars for television ads and brought in a parade of party bigwigs to campaign. Such a huge effort in a district that should be a cakewalk for Republicans is a measure of how deep into GOP territory the fight for Congress had reached. On October 19, 2006 GOP pollster Frank Luntz said of Republican prospects, “There used to be 15 races that were vulnerable, then it was 20.... Today you’d say 35 seats are in play” (Hook).

This Scandal not only affected the Republican Party but the Democrats as well, obviously they had another issue to push into the public eye in an attempt to discredit Republican Representatives. Tim Harper from the Toronto Star, states before the 2006 elections that, “Democrats are poised to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives and could even capture the Senate. If they do, they can thank two issues that any voter can easily grasp, sexual indiscretion and war. It could be easily seen that some people would blame Foley for something that might bring down the Republican Party in Congress.” He goes on to say that the Foley scandal will play a central role in at least four or five districts, but it reinforces the longstanding Democratic message of a “culture of corruption” in Washington. Republicans were engaged in full damage control over the Page sex scandal. At the same time Democrats attempted to make a “wave” by making these races national referenda on the Republicans, while the Republicans are trying to turn them into contests based on local issues to blunt their national unpopularity (Harper).

Not only did this news affect undecided voters but it also affected the voting habits of strong leaning conservatives. John C. Green, Director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron said, “The Foley disclosures could serve to push more undecided voters into Democrats camps while discouraging conservative Republicans from bothering to vote” (Nagourney). This scandal was not exclusive to Mark Foley and the people who called him a friend. Anita Kumar with the St. Petersburg Times notes that “Republican members of Congress campaigning for re-election across the nation are finding that the Foley scandal dominates the discussion” (Kumar). This is very important since surveys of voters leaving polling places showed that 74% of voters consider scandals and corruption in government an important factor when they cast their vote (Kiely). The reach of these scandals were reminiscent of 1994, when Democrats lost control of Congress after bouncing checks at the House bank, and in 1974 when Republicans lost 48 House seats after Watergate (Moore).

Republicans were dogged by scandal throughout the campaign, and it cost them dearly. They lost seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida as the direct result of misconduct. The GOP was also counting on the fact that House races traditionally turn on local issues rather than the national political picture. But a national exit poll indicated that most voters in House races were viewing this crucial midterm through the prism of national concern (Hulse).

This scandal transcended the individuals involved and affected all of those who were affiliated with the same party as Mark Foley. Voters held the Republican Party responsible for the ethical failings. David Rohde, a political scientist at Duke University said, “Its not just individuals who transgressed themselves, but it’s the party that’s in control that has failed on a whole bunch of grounds” (Moore). Representative Christopher Shays from Connecticut was one of the ones who actually regained his seat after the scandal fall outs. Mr. Shays narrowly beat Diane G. Farrell to keep the seat in Congress he has held since 1987. When he went to Congress he was one of nine Republican Representatives from the six New England states. After the 2006 elections, he was the only one. He admits to the New York Times that the Republican Party “lost the moral authority to lead.” He said that when the party looked the other way at its ethical failings over the years, it was ambling toward disaster that finally arrived in the House Page scandal. “As soon as Foley came up, I knew it. You could feel it. I said, ‘we’re dead’ ” (Applebome).

In a thick fog of scandal it is sometimes difficult to see anything other than what is right in front of your face. American families, mothers, fathers, and alike vary drastically on political issues. There are many issues that are virtually split right down the middle. But what Mark Foley admitted to doing was inexcusable. No one could sympathize with him, regardless of his distant past. The American voting public does not take kindly to a Congressman who admits to these kinds of horrible acts. The fact that one mans actions have become a detriment to a political ideal is unfortunate but nonetheless apparent. Everyone who shared the title of ‘Republican’ was hurt by this news, some certainly more than others. Mark Foley’s actions being made public so close to the 2006 Congressional elections made the impact of the scandal that much more devastating for the Republicans. The Foley scandal was splashed across every newspaper in America from September 2006 to the end of the year. News like this sticks with you throughout the day; it is not to be mentally discarded easily. This is a real person in a very powerful position, doing very disgraceful things, and the members of the party that knew all along plays the finger pointing game as to avoid any personal political strife. People see these issues along with many others to make decisions as to who they will cast their vote for. When the Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives in 2006, the scandal surrounding Mark Foley’s actions undeniably aided their victory.

Works Cited

Applebome, Peter. “A Survivor Reflects on Political Casualties, and Real Ones.” The

New York Times 12 Nov. 2006.

Harper, Tim. “Scandal Rattles Republicans.” The Toronto Star 11 Oct. 2006.

Hook, Janet. “The Nation; Inroads Into GOP Country.” Los Angeles Times 19 Oct. 2006.

Hulse, Carl. “On Wave of Voter Unrest, Democrats Take Control of House.” The New

York Times 8 Nov. 2006.

Kiely, Kathy. “Voters’ Displeasure Loosens GOP’s Grip.” USA Today 8 Nov. 2006.

Kumar, Anita. “Foley Aide: I Told GOP in ’03.” St. Petersburg Times 5 Oct. 2006.

Moore, Martha T. “Sex, Money Scandals Spell Doom for GOP in Few Races.” USA

Today 8 Nov. 2006.

Nagourney, Adam. “Foley Case Snags Incumbent In Ohio Race for House Seat.” The

New York Times 12 Oct. 2006.

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