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Kolbe
investigated over camping trip with male pages

Kolbe
investigated over camping trip with male pages

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Overseers of the House of Representatives' page program this week discussed a camping trip that Republican congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona took with two former interns and others in 1996--an outing now under review by the Justice Department, a congressional source said Tuesday.

Overseers of the House of Representatives' program for teenage assistants this week discussed a camping trip that Republican congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona took with two former interns and others in 1996--an outing now under review by the Justice Department, a congressional source said Tuesday.

The overseers, consisting of three lawmakers and two senior House officials, did not have any new information beyond recent news stories on the Kolbe trip. Those stories said that in addition to the former interns--known as pages--members of his staff and National Park Service officials went along. The source is familiar with the discussions but is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Recent polls show that the Kolbe camping trip coupled with the recent scandal involving gay former congressman Mark Foley--who resigned over explicit Internet messages to former male pages--have hurt the chances that the GOP will retain control over the Senate and the House in the November 7 election. Democrats need to pick up 15 seats in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate to gain majorities. All 435 House seats and 33 of the 100 Senate seats are up for a vote.

The Kolbe trip was discussed in a conference call Monday. It shows that the people responsible for the page program are casting a wider net following the revelations about Foley. The meeting was first revealed Monday by the lone Democrat on the page board, Rep. Dale Kildee, who declined to say which lawmakers were discussed.

Meanwhile, the House Ethics Committee on Tuesday continued investigating the Foley matter. Investigators, pressing ahead with closed-door interviews, questioned Paula Nowakowski, chief of staff for House majority leader John Boehner.

Kolbe took the former pages as well as staff members and National Park Service officials on a holiday rafting trip in the Grand Canyon in 1996, his spokeswoman Korenna Cline said last week. A federal law enforcement official said last week that an allegation related to the trip was given to the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix. It was not immediately clear whether it concerned any contention of improper activity by the retiring Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican in Congress.

The official described the inquiry as preliminary and as far narrower in scope than the federal investigation of Foley, who resigned September 29. Foley's resignation touched off a wave of investigations and allegations that House Republican leaders were aware of his behavior before the scandal broke.

A second law enforcement official said the 1996 Kolbe trip may be too old to investigate as a criminal matter. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment. (AP)

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