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In Novemberafter Democrats retook the house, Hastert announced he'd step down from leadership in the next Congress. Mark Foley, it was revealed, had repeatedly made sexual advances to several congressional s. I was a congressional in and During that year, Foley sent sexual instant messages to at least three of my classmates. Two of those recipients continued to receive them well after their time in the program had elapsed, extending into our college years.

Many of us who were s at the time knew that the conversations had taken place.

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Some of us even shared copies of the message logs among ourselves. I did it because I realized just how easily Rep. Foley had been evading ability for repeat offenses, and that the House leadership was either unwilling or unable to solve the problem.

Introduction

For decades on Capitol Hillit was impossible to miss the s. To others on the Hill, the uniforms act as a marker for quick identification. Within the program, they functioned as something of an equalizer, a reminder that in spite of our differences—children of wealthy scions and immigrants, red-meat conservatives and fire-breathing liberals—there was a oneness; we belonged.

I knew I wanted to be a since literally the first time I heard of it, right around the time that my seventh-grade love of professional wrestling gave way to an eighth-grade love of politics—I had to get into the program. I volunteered long hours with my congressman for years to make it a reality. In Augustweeks before my junior year of high school, the acceptance letter came in a thick envelope from House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.

I had been granted admission to my own personal Hogwarts. During Labor Day weekend, my parents and I ed a block-long line of 70 incoming s and their doting parents for move-in day. We were all living away from home for the first time, housed in a dorm that often took on a summer-camp atmosphere. We were adolescents, subject to the same teenage romances and cliques as all high schoolers, only ours played out in the halls of Congress.

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That first week was a blur—the need to familiarize yourself with the Capitol, to make sense of the House office building system, the Morse code-like bell system and corresponding row of tiny lightbulbs found on every clock on the Hill, the cramped labyrinth of hallways in the basement, the underground tunnel system. We began memorizing the names and faces of every member of the House, using a stack of hundreds of glossy photos as flashcards. The second week I remember more clearly: Tuesday, September A classmate scurried up to me.

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I thought he was lying. A dozen of us squeezed into the Democratic cloakroom, huddling around the small, inch TV. As we learned the news—two planes in New York, a plane that hit the Pentagon, one plane still uned for—we also heard the terrifying false alarms: reports of a bomb detonated at the State Department, that the National Mall was on fire.

Soon, a decision was made: we have to get out of here. Just then, a deafening alarm clanged to life in the Capitol building.

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I assumed the same as everyone else: a plane was about to hit the Capitol. We started sprinting. Police officers made a mad dash for the exits. Outside, there was chaos. Entire congressional offices pouring out into the streets. Smoke plumed from the Pentagon plane crash two miles away. Back at the dorm, penned inside the communal living room until they could get a head count, we gathered and cried.

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We watched CNN as the footage looped, a Mobius strip of grief, confusion and horror. We were out of Kleenex, so a spare roll of toilet paper passed around, many of us ripping off a few squares in a futile effort to blot our tears and stem the flow. That was our introduction to Washington, D. We were year-olds, alone and in the middle of it all. Our families were back home, and in their absence, we became a family, with all of the affection, arguments, favoritism, comfort and drama that families entail.

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Looking back, I realize just how vulnerable we all were. When the House was in session, members of Congress interacted constantly with s.

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When the House was in session, we had to be there, too. If there was a big vote and they stayed late into the night, we were there until they finished.

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There are the charming, warm-and-friendly types—J. Watts, who knew people by name, or Loretta Sanchez, who had an easy comfort with s—and the confrontational types, like Jesse Jackson, Jr. Foley was the former. Glossy, every detail of his appearance immaculate and manicured, Foley kept in good shape and wore tailored suits.

His skin was richly tanned, like the soft leather upholstery on a private jet, and he had an easy demeanor about him, a magnetic friendliness that made it seem like he really cared about you.

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On the Hill, Foley was known as something of a publicity hog, the guy who bragged about showing celebrities like Julia Roberts and Melanie Griffith around the Capitol, never one to miss a good photo op. His attraction to celebrity was so apparent and distinct that California Rep. At the end of the year, he spoke movingly about our class on the House floor.

He seemed to have a personal anecdote to share about each and every single. An ugly smear campaign? I knew that was a lie. And I knew that there was incontrovertible proof. These s were nothing. AIM was an evolutionary ancestor to the later era of social media and texting, a place where you could instantly talk with friends or strangers while hidden behind a screenname. Like text messages, AIM felt ephemeral—which probably explained its appeal to Foley.

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But unbeknownst to most users, the program automatically logged full transcripts of every conversation. It had a permanent memory. If you ended a conversation, a verbatim copy of it would, by default, be saved on your computer. I first heard about the conversations shortly after Foley initiated them. One of the s Foley had messaged told me and a few classmates about it. We treated the messages like standard-issuesalacious high school gossip: inappropriate, sure, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Many of my classmates—myself included—knew that transcripts existed.

Inthey were passed around between several of us— Can you believe he said this? This is crazy! I had the transcripts inread a few of the literally dozens of them, got uncomfortable, and deleted them. Over the next several years, as the conversations with Foley continued and the inappropriateness of his conduct deepened, the digital transcripts were shared again. They had dropped out of mind.

Then something happened to jumpstart my memory. That year, I lived in Emmons Hall, a squat brick-and-glass dormitory from the s, pinned between two busy ro and the gurgling Red Cedar River. I sat in a standard-issue wooden desk chair, clicking aimlessly on my computer while guzzling another in a long line of Diet Coke cans.

On the ABC News website, a headline grabbed my attention: a year-old House had received vaguely inappropriate s from Rep. Mark Foley. The article walked a delicate line between reporting what the s said, and what they meant. He used ellipsis points in place of actual punctuation, as if leaving out the things he really wanted to say:.

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Its raining here but 68 degrees so who can argue. A later from Foley got somewhat less vague :. Foley had given himself room to deny wrongdoing if the s were ever found. When questioned about asking for a photo of the teenage boy, his office explained that it was their policy to keep file photos of former interns and s so they could more easily recall them if asked to write letters of recommendation.

You can explain your way out of the creepiness of asking a teenager for his age and photo. The transcripts we traded were totally different—full of explicit references to masturbation and penis size and attempts to arrange a real-life rendezvous.

I ed a classmate who still had copies of the transcripts and asked if he could send them to me. He agreed, on the condition that I not send them to the press.

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Within an hour, he ed me the entire batch—dozens of them. I trusted Rafael's judgment, and wanted his opinion on all of this. Should I send the transcripts? We talked it out and convinced ourselves that I had no real choice, that I had an obligation to give the transcripts to the media—provided that I could protect the anonymity of our classmates. Now that I had the transcripts, I would drop a note to its reporters: there was far more to the Foley story—he had sexual conversations with my classmates, and I had transcripts to prove it all.

We exchanged messages. Please feel free to me or call me…. Another at the time… was getting hit upon by Rep. Foley — both during and after the program up untilat least. Regardless, I would like to speak with you about the s before we report anything. Thursday night, I talked with Maddy on the phone, and walked her through all the information I had, soon sending over several transcripts for her perusal.