congressman Jim Kolbe was trying to retire quietly, it isn't
working out that way. Kolbe confirmed Tuesday that he
referred concerns about then-representative Mark Foley
to the House clerk's office in 2001 or 2002 after a
former page told him Foley had sent him e-mails that made
him feel uncomfortable.
The revelation is key to the question of when
top House Republicans knew about Foley's behavior and
whether they should have acted sooner to intervene. It
has thrust Kolbe, 64, the only openly gay Republican in
Congress, into the spotlight just as he is preparing to
leave Washington after 22 years in the House.
Kolbe is best known for his advocacy for free
trade, international development, and immigration
reform. He also has waged a quixotic campaign to
eliminate the penny, which costs more to produce than it is
worth and which many argue is becoming obsolete.
He served on the board that oversees the page
program between 1995 and February 2001. He was a page
for Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona from 1958 to
1960, and Kolbe's young staffers have described him as
a professor-like figure who was willing to make time to
discuss the issues of the day with them.
Spokeswoman Korenna Cline said Kolbe frequently
offers his home to former pages, interns,
constituents, and colleagues. ''We joke in the office
that we can't keep track of who is staying there,'' she
said. ''He's just very generous.''
Kolbe, who is traveling in Europe, has declined
interviews about his knowledge of concerns about
Foley. It may have been Kolbe's close relationship to
the young staffers that led his former page to approach
him about Foley.
Kolbe said in a statement Tuesday that his
office reported the matter to the House clerk and took
it up with Foley himself. The page did not report
further problems, and Kolbe said he believed the matter was resolved.
''I believed then and believe now that this was
the appropriate way to handle this incident given the
information I had,'' Kolbe said.
It is unclear whether Kolbe's role in the Foley
saga will affect his post-Congress employment options.
This week he was named one of five finalists to head
the Global Fund to Prevent AIDS, Tuberculosis, and
Malaria, the central financing engine of international
efforts to fight those diseases.
Among his supporters is Jack Valenti, former
president of the Motion Picture Association of America
and president of the Friends of the Global Fight
Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. In an interview
Valenti said Kolbe is ideal for the job because he
regularly won consensus while serving as chairman of
the appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations,
export financing, and related programs. ''Members of his
subcommittee...trust him, they respect him, and they believe
in him,'' Valenti said. (Jennifer Talhelm, AP)