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Originally published Friday, October 6, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Ethics panel OKs dozens of subpoenas in Foley scandal

The House ethics committee approved nearly four dozen subpoenas Thursday as its investigation of a page sex scandal sprang to life with...

WASHINGTON — The House ethics committee approved nearly four dozen subpoenas Thursday as its investigation of a page sex scandal sprang to life with a promise by its leaders to go "wherever the evidence leads us."

Speaker Dennis Hastert said he accepted responsibility for any earlier failures to investigate complaints of inappropriate behavior by Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., toward teenage male pages.

"I am deeply sorry that this has happened," Hastert said. "Ultimately ... the buck stops here."

But he rejected calls that he step down and held to his assertion that he did not know about Foley's e-mails and instant messages to former pages until the scandal broke last week.

In the past several days, several Republican lawmakers and staff members said they were aware of the messages.

The ethics committee promised to finish its investigation in weeks, not months, but it was unclear whether that would occur before the Nov. 7 election. Hastert's handling of the issue has brought harsh criticism from some fellow Republicans and conservative activists.

An AP-Ipsos poll found that about half of likely voters say recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress will be "very" or "extremely" important when they cast their votes. That group is much more likely to vote Democratic.

Ethics committee chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., told reporters at the capital, "Our investigation will go wherever the evidence leads us."

Because the panel's jurisdiction is limited to House members and staff, the investigation will not directly affect Foley, who resigned Friday. It could lead to disciplinary action against House members or staff found to be complicit in Foley's misconduct.

Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said the speaker had not received a subpoena from the ethics committee but was willing to testify.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department appeared to be moving with dispatch in its criminal investigation.

Timothy Heaphy, a lawyer for ex-Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham, said his client had just met with the FBI. Fordham emerged as a key figure Wednesday when he told reporters that he had talked three years ago with top aides to Hastert about Foley's conduct with pages. His comments pushed back the time when information may have reached the speaker's office.

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The FBI also contacted a former congressional page from Kentucky, an aide to a Kentucky congressman said.

Daniel London, chief of staff to Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Ky., said Lewis' Washington office was contacted Tuesday by the man, who served as a page in 2001. He didn't want to be identified.

ABC News also reported that three more pages have come forward detailing sexual approaches from Foley online.

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