Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Congressional Sex Scandals

Paging Mark Foley

Mark Foley
Mark Foley

He'd been campaigning all day for a U.S. Senate seat that many Republicans thought was his for the taking. His lifelong dream seemed to be within reach, and it's what brought Mark Foley to Pensacola, Florida anyway, the site of the first European settlement in America and some of the nation's whitest beach sand. It was early February 2003, and even though the popular U.S. Representative hadn't announced his candidacy, his chances to move up to the Senate looked good.

But it'd been a long day, and back in his hotel room that evening he decided to send a text message to a former Congressional page. The boy, a senior in high school, was 17, under the age of consent in Florida. The conversation at first was tame, with Foley asking the boy what he was doing. The high school student complained to Foley about being sore from dancing earlier that day. As they chatted over the next 45 minutes though, Foley led the boy down increasingly sexual conversational alleys: fetishes, masturbation habits, even penis size. It was one of the more lurid exchanges in a string of conversations between Foley and underage pages — over instant messaging and email — that would all come to light three years later. Surely Foley knew the risk he was taking, not only legally but also to his political career. Yet unknown to the Congressman, the specifics of that night's chat would be his undoing. After ABC News published a transcript of the chat, Foley resigned in shame weeks before the mid-term 2006 election. The Foley scandal, many observers said, contributed to the loss of the Republican majority in Congress for the first time in over a decade.

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