Gay Congressman under fire over camping trip

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Federal prosecutors in Arizona have opened an investigation into a camping trip taken by Representative Jim Kolbe with two former pages and others in 1996, according to a law-enforcement official.

According to the Associated Press, Republican Congressman Mr Kolbe took the former pages as well as staffers and National Park Service officials on a raft trip in the Grand Canyon in 1996, his spokeswoman said.

An allegation related to the trip was given to the US attorney’s office in Phoenix.

The Washington Post reports that one official cautioned the inquiry was based on allegations from one unidentified source that has not been substantiated.

The allegations involve Mr Kolbe’s behaviour toward one of the ex-pages, the official told the Post.

The official also said the investigation is far narrower in scope than the federal investigation into former Representative Mark Foley, who resigned two weeks ago amid reports of sexually explicit messages to pages and former pages.

The Post reports that the three-day trip down the Grand Canyon also included several staffers and National Park Service employees, according to NBC News, which first reported the investigation.

Mr Kolbe’s office said in a statement to NBC that “there is absolutely no basis and no truth” to any allegations of inappropriate behaviour, and that the trip included five aides, two former pages and Mr Kolbe’s sister.

Mr Kolbe is one of several lawmakers who have become enmeshed in the scandal over Mr Foley.

He told reporters this week that a former page alerted his office several years ago about e-mails from Foley “that made him uncomfortable,” and that the complaint was taken to Foley’s office and the House clerk. Mr Kolbe, a former member of the House Page Board, said he did not see the messages but was told they were sexually explicit.

Meanwhile, Representative John Shimkus, chairman of the board that oversees the House page programme, conceded Republicans mishandled the Foley matter. “I think there’s stuff that everybody would have done differently,” he said after testifying before the House ethics committee.

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