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The blotter

Foley is the fourth House Republican -- after Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Tom DeLay, and Bob Ney -- to leave office this cycle due to ethics problems.  No House Democrats have vacated their posts, though the finances of a few are being investigated.

Two probes could spring from the Foley scandal.  A Justice Department official tells NBC's Pete Williams that the FBI has begun "an assessment" to see if Foley violated any federal laws.  It's very early in the process, and there's no feeling one way or the other at this point whether any federal laws may have been violated, Williams reports.  What law might be involved?  There's no official finding, but one could be the law against enticement, which make it a crime to use any interstate means of communication to entice minors to engage in any sexual act that would be illegal.  Also, the House Ethics Committee could investigate House Republican leaders' handling of the situation after they were informed of Foley's e-mails and instant messages to the pages. 

The Florida GOP executive board is scheduled to meet in Orlando today (or tomorrow, if they reschedule because of the holiday) to vote on a replacement for Foley.  As mentioned here before, Foley's name will remain on the ballot, but any votes cast for him will go to this designated replacement.  A spokesperson for the Florida Department of State tells First Read that it's not clear if and how voters will be notified that a vote cast for Foley on the ballot is actually a vote for another Republican candidate.  Those details are still being worked out.

Per the AP: "A law enforcement official, who asked for anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said agents from the FBI's cyber division are looking into the text of some of the messages and checking to see how many e-mails were sent and how many computers were used.  They are also looking to see if some of the teens who were sent messages will cooperate with the probe." 

The Washington Post learns from a former page that "he has known for years about the 'creepy' messages three 2002 classmates received from Foley.  He said Foley sent them after the boys had finished the House program.  Each began innocuously but took a turn in tone," he said.  The former page, "who runs the U.S. House Page Alumni Association's Internet message board," said those "who received them 'didn't do anything beside telling other pages about it.'" 

The Miami Herald notes that two papers, itself included, were aware of the communications and that a story was not warranted based on the evidence at the time. 

The Chicago Tribune covers Hastert's call for a Justice Department probe: "Hastert's surprising move underlined the potential damage of the scandal for Republicans in final weeks before midterm elections with control of Congress in the balance.  The Republican leadership also faces another variation of the iconic Watergate-era refrain: What did they know and when did they know it?" 

Bloomberg notes how House Republicans in tough races aren't exactly rushing to defend their leadership, and that "[n]o Republican candidate has canceled planned campaign appearances with Hastert and the issue hasn't endangered his hold on the party's top House post, said his spokesman, Ron Bonjean." 

The Los Angeles Times says "the Republicans' effort to distance the party from Foley may be complicated by his close ties with the party's campaign operation.  Foley's longtime chief of staff is now a senior aide to" NRCC chair Tom Reynolds.  "Foley's campaign committee gave $100,000 to the NRCC this summer...  Seizing on the campaign donation, which put Foley among the GOP committee's bigger donors, the Democratic National Committee stepped up its accusations that Reynolds and other Republican leaders were more interested in protecting Foley than investigating potential misconduct...  NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said the campaign donation had no impact on how Reynolds handled the matter." 

The New York Times notes how the NRCC has run ads this cycle hitting Democratic challengers on being soft on child predators.  "Now, Democrats are suddenly seeing an opportunity to turn the tables...  After years of defending themselves against Republican charges that they are soft on crime and generally out of step with the nation's values, Democrats are criticizing Republicans on one of their core issues." 

Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was supposed to report to prison today for 70 months of incarceration after being sentenced for pleading guilty in January to defrauding lenders in the SunCruz casino scandal, NBC's Joel Seidman reminds us.  Now he has until November 15 to report to federal prison, so that he can continue cooperating with federal authorities in an ongoing corruption investigation.  Abramoff also pleaded in January to charges in the pay-to-play, Washington influence-peddling investigation, but he has yet to be sentenced on those charges.