GREENBELT – Republicans, reeling from the fallout of a fellow GOPer’s conduct with underage pages, are trying to tarnish Democratic candidates by taking misleading jabs at Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer’s voting record on sex scandals.
Republican incumbent Thelma Drake, for example, running for Congress in Virginia’s 2nd District, has criticized her opponent, Democrat Phil Kellam, for his ties to Hoyer. In a news release she said voters should be alarmed at Hoyer’s response to a page scandal in 1983.
A similar headline sent out by the National Republican Congressional Committee refers to Hoyer as the “Democrat Leader Who Coddled Colleague Who Had Sex with Male Page.”
Both releases leave out Hoyer’s next vote and the fact that the 1983 scandal also enmeshed a Republican.
Hoyer’s second votes censured both Massachusetts Democrat Gerry Studds and Illinois Republican Daniel Crane for their sexual encounters with pages, according to the Congressional Record for July 20, 1983.
“I think they’re desperate,” said Hoyer. “I don’t know that they’re using it against me other than to try to diminish my credibility. They don’t have a candidate running against me,” he said, chuckling.
Hoyer’s only opponent in the Nov. 7 election is Green Party candidate Steve Warner.
The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Hoyer has visited at least 58 districts in 15 states to raise money for party candidates before the midterm election. He donated $7,500 to Kellam.
Drake’s campaign released a statement this week describing Hoyer as a “page abuse apologist,” and calling on Kellam to return the money that Hoyer donated to his campaign.
“Hoyer voted against censuring a member of Congress for actually having sex with a 17-year-old page,” the release states.
In the current scandal, Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida resigned after lewd e-mails he exchanged with male pages surfaced. In the 1983 scandal, both House members had sex with young pages.
The Congressional Record shows that two votes took place regarding punishment for both Studds and Crane. A bipartisan committee recommended that the House vote to reprimand, rather than censure, the men.
But other members tried to alter that recommendation to impose censure. Hoyer voted no, against altering the report and in support of the panel that thoroughly investigated the matter, he said. That effort passed over Hoyer’s objection.
Once the question of a reprimand was off the table, the second vote was whether to censure or not. Hoyer voted yes.
“I voted to support the committee,” Hoyer said. “When that lost, 421 of us voted to censure the two members.”
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Alex Burgos insisted that the campaign was not at all misleading because it’s part of Hoyer’s voting record.
Democrats have attempted to politicize the Foley scandal for their own benefit, Burgos said. “Before doing so they should have looked in the mirror at their own leadership, namely Steny Hoyer.”
Hoyer isn’t fazed by the attack. He said that the Foley matter and the 1983 scandal are completely different.
“It was the Ethics Committee in 1983 that brought this to light, not ABC News,” said Hoyer. He said he was surprised that the Republicans would even bring up a previous scandal because it makes them look bad.
Neither Drake’s campaign nor the Republican Party mentions Crane in their indictments.
“Our focus is on Gerry Studds,” said Burgos, repeatedly.
Tim Murtaugh, Drake’s campaign manager, said they stand by the release, and clarified that it was in response to an attack from the opposition calling for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to step down. Murtaugh said that the release was intended to show Democrats’ hypocrisy.
Democrats and others have called for Hastert to resign because he may have known about the Foley messages for a while, but failed to take significant action, they say.
Speaking of hypocrisy, Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Farnen Bernards pointed out that in 1983, several Republicans voted to upgrade the punishment for the Democrat, Studds, but not for their own party’s Crane. Those members included former House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill.