A Republican member of Congress confronted then-Rep. Mark Foley about his internet communications with teenagers as early as 2000, according to a newspaper report.
The report in the Washington Post pushes back by at least five years the date when a member of Congress acknowledges learning of the Florida Republican's questionable behaviour towards teenagers.
It came as the Republican leadership attempted to present a united front on the congressional page scandal that has rocked the party a month before mid-term elections and put House Speaker Dennis Hastert on shaky ground.
Though Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., insisted yesterday that ``the dirty laundry in our conference is gone,'' that claim appeared to be premature.
The Washington Post reported last night that Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., confronted Foley about his internet communications with teenagers as early as 2000.
The Post said that a former page showed Kolbe some internet messages from Foley that had made the page uncomfortable. Kolbe's press secretary, Korenna Cline, told the Post that a Kolbe staff member advised the page last week to discuss the matter with the clerk of the House.
Hastert and his aides have been criticised for failing to act promptly after receiving warnings about Foley's questionable electronic communications with pages.
Hastert since has insisted he was not aware of the communications until recently. But on the day after Foley resigned, New York Rep. Tom Reynolds said he had told Hastert months ago about concerns that Foley had sent inappropriate messages. Reynolds now says he cannot remember exactly when he learned of Foley's emails or when he told Hastert about them.
Putnam sat in yesterday for Reynolds, who cancelled an appearance on ABC's This Week because, said an aide, he was suffering from a ``flu-like'' ailment. Reynolds is facing a tough re-election fight against Democrat Jack Davis.
Reynolds has been criticised by Democrats who say he did too little to protect a male teenage page from Foley who resigned on September 29 after disclosure of his inappropriate electronic messages to former congressional pages. Foley is now under investigation by federal and Florida authorities.
Putnam, who heads the Republican Policy Committee, sought to make the case that Hastert's office ``acted proactively, they acted aggressively, and within hours of the explicit e-mails coming to light, they demanded Foley's resignation.''
One Republican said yesterday that those who participated in a cover-up would have to resign.
``Anybody that hindered this in any kind of way, tried to step in the way of hiding this, covering it up, is going to have to step down. Whoever that is,'' said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.
The House ethics committee is investigating the matter. If it finds evidence of a cover-up, the punishment could range from a mild rebuke in a committee report to a House vote of censure or expulsion.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said Democrats should be investigated to see whether they leaked the explicit emails to gain a political advantage before the elections, although the lawmaker acknowledged he had no evidence indicating that was the case.