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Foley in rehab as House Republicans try to contain damage

Foley in rehab as House Republicans try to contain damage

A former Republican congressman, under FBI investigation for salacious e-mail exchanges with teenage congressional interns, has entered an alcoholism treatment center and accepts responsibility for his actions, his attorney said Monday.
The attorney, David Roth, would not identify the rehabilitation facility, but told The Associated Press Florida that Foley had checked in over the weekend.
"I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems," Foley, said in a statement, Roth told The AP.
In scorching language, Republican leaders of the House of Representatives on Monday condemned Foley's actions as they tried to contain the damage to the party five weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm congressional elections in which Republicans face the possibility they could loose control of the House.
"Congressman Foley duped a lot of people ... He deceived the good men and women in organizations around the country with whom he worked to strengthen child predator laws," Speaker Dennis Hastert told reporters. "I have known him all the years he served in the House and he deceived me too."
The Bush administration, meanwhile, sought to distance itself from the scandal and the increasing questions about when members of the House Republican leadership knew of the e-mail exchanges and what did they know of Foley's actions. Coming five weeks before the election, the scandal involving the Republican congressman could cost the Republicans control of the House.
"The House has to clean up the mess, to the extent there is a mess," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters at a briefing.
Foley abruptly quit Congress on Friday after reports surfaced that he had sent sexually charged electronic messages to boys working interns and known as pages. In the statement, Foley said the "events that led to my resignation have crystalized recognition of my long-standing and significant alcoholism and emotional difficulties."
"I deeply regret and accept full responsibility for the harm I have caused," Foley said. He also expressed "gratitude for the prayers and words of encouragement that have been conveyed to me."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, meanwhile, "is conducting an assessment to see if there's been a violation of federal law," according to FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Monday it was also investigating whether the e-mail communications violated state law. Spokesman Tom Berlinger called the state probe "a precursor to a possible criminal investigation."
Florida Republicans picked former state Rep. Joe Negron to replace Foley as its candidate in his largely Republican district.
Though Foley's name will remain on the ballot, Negron will get any votes that go to Foley.
Some Republicans think it might be wiser to forfeit Foley's seat and avoid keeping the story alive through Election Day.
"I think it's a death sentence ... mission impossible," former state Republican Party chairman Tom Slade said. "The only way you win is they (voters) have got to vote for Mark Foley. That doesn't appear to me to be very attractive."
But state party spokesman Jeff Sadosky said the seat is too important to surrender.
"The voters will educate themselves running in the race, not the candidates from the race in the past," Sadosky said. "It's not going to be about yesterday's news no matter how tragic and horrifying."
At the national level, Republicans went into damage control mode amid charges by Democrats that some House leaders may have known for months about Foley's inappropriate overtures toward the young pages.
Hastert met with his staff, the House clerk and Rep. John Shimkus, the congressman who oversees the intern program, to review the procedures on protecting the teenagers while they are working at the Capitol and after they finish their assignments.
Hastert in a letter sent Sunday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked the Justice Department to "conduct an investigation of Mr. Foley's conduct with current and former House pages," including "any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement."
Democrats demanded that investigators determine whether Republican leaders tried to cover up Foley's actions for political reasons.
FBI cyber sleuths are looking into the text of some of the Foley messages, checking to see how many e-mails and instant electronic messages were sent and how many computers were used, according to a law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
The FBI also was trying to determine if any of the teenagers who received messages are willing to cooperate with the investigation, the official said.
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Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Orlando and Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee contributed to this report.