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Report: Kolbe ‘spent far too much time’ with pages

U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe “spent far too much time interacting with the pages,” a former top administrator in the U.S. House of Representatives told the House Ethics Committee.

The statement was in a congressional report Friday that found Republican lawmakers and aides left male pages vulnerable to former Rep. Mark Foley’s improper sexual advances.

Kolbe, a 22-year Republican congressman from southern Arizona, is retiring next month but has been drawn into the Foley scandal, which involved sexually suggestive instant messages and e-mails to former pages.

Jeff Trandahl, the former clerk of the House, testified during the ethics panel’s investigation of the Foley matter that Kolbe spent too much time with teenage pages -as Foley did.

“I viewed (Kolbe), too, as putting himself at risk,” Trandahl said. “He spent far too much time interacting with the pages. I was uncomfortable with it.”

Trandahl said he told Kolbe, his chief of staff Fran McNaught and his administrative assistant Patrick Baugh that the congressman should stop.

But Kolbe called the ethics report a kind of vindication in another statement issued Friday.

“The report demonstrates that members of my office and I took prompt action in 2001 to address the complaint that was brought to our attention by a college student from my district who had previously served as a House Page,” Kolbe said.

According to the panel’s report on the investigation, Trandahl’s advice was not heeded and Kolbe told his own staff to “mind their own business.”

In a statement issued today, Kolbe defended his actions, specifically relating to a former page from his district who contacted him in 2001 because Foley allegedly was sending sexually suggestive instant messages. Kolbe repeated his claim that he did the right thing by referring the former page to Trandahl.

“The Chairman of the House Committee today said that ‘doing the right thing is the only acceptable option.’ I agree, and that is precisely what I did in response to the information provided to me and to those on my staff.

In an Oct. 10 statement, Kolbe touted his interest in the page program. He got his start in politics as a page for former Sen. Barry Goldwater and in Congress served on the page board, which monitors young “go-fors” and how they are treated.

“I visit with the pages at the back of the chamber to explain politics and parliamentary procedures on the House Floor,” Kolbe said in the statement. “I have written college and graduate school recommendations for scores of the young men and women, and I have always participated in various official page activities when asked to do so by the program, such as speaking at their graduation.”

In mid-October, federal prosecutors in Arizona reportedly began investigating a camping trip that Kolbe took with two former pages and others in 1996.

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