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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Ethics committee should act swiftly in scandal probe

In the days following the revelation that Republican congressional leaders knew about disgraced Rep. Mark Foley's lurid e-mails and instant messages to underage pages but did nothing to stop them, GOP apologists were quick to place blame elsewhere.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich blamed President Clinton, the source of all evil in the world. And besides, Mr. Gingrich said on Rush Limbaugh's daily radio program, Republicans had to tread lightly to avoid the impression they were "gay-bashing."

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas, in a column written Oct. 3 and appearing in today's DAILY (page A7), blames liberal "public schools, popular culture and editorialists at major newspapers" for having blurred the line between right and wrong.

After these attempts at spin failed to sway the public's opinion, and after further allegations — from Republicans — that Speaker Dennis Hastert's staff was informed of Mr. Foley's inappropriate communications as long as three years ago, Mr. Hastert abruptly changed course Thursday and took responsibility for the matter.

A House ethics committee has now begun its own probe, separate from the Justice Department investigation, into what the GOP congressional leadership knew and when they knew it.

Federal Election Commission records show that Mr. Hastert's campaign committees donated $2,500 to the campaign of Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the ethics panel, and gave $7,000 in campaign cash to Rep. Judith Biggert, R-Ill., the other Republican on the investigation committee.

Democrat Rep. Howard Berman of California, who is joined on the four-member panel by Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, said the investigation should take "weeks, not months."

We hope the committee makes its findings public before the Nov. 7 election.

Voters deserve to know before they go to the polls whether the GOP leadership covered up a colleague's inappropriate advances to pages.

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