House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office was notified in October by then-Rep. Eric Massa’s top aide of concerns about the New York Democrat’s behavior, two congressional sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday night.
Joe Racalto, Massa’s chief of staff, was uneasy that Massa, 50, was living with several young, unmarried male staffers and using sexually explicit language with them, one source said. But what finally prompted him to call Pelosi’s director of member services, the source said, was a lunch date that Massa made with a congressional aide in his 20s who worked in the office of Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
According to a person briefed on the call, Racalto was concerned that the lunch followed a pattern by Massa — who is married and has two children — of trying to spend time alone with young gay men with no ostensible work purpose. Racalto, according to this person, also alerted Frank’s chief of staff. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the matter.
Neither Racalto nor anyone from Pelosi’s office responded immediately to requests for comment Wednesday night. Massa could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The revelation about warnings to Pelosi’s office comes as the House ethics committee closed its short-lived investigation of allegations that Massa groped and sexually harassed several young, male staffers in his office, according to two sources familiar with the decision.
The committee concluded that Massa’s resignation put him outside the reach of any punishment it could impose and would render any findings irrelevant. The decision set up a political battle with House Republicans, who are already targeting congressional Democrats with campaign ads saying they have failed to look deeply enough into the ethical transgressions of their party members.
Republicans signaled Wednesday that they wanted the inquiry to continue, despite Massa’s departure. Senior Republicans in the House said the public deserves to know whether Democratic leaders were aware of the allegations of Massa’s misconduct longer than they have acknowledged and whether they failed to act to protect junior staffers.
GOP leaders cited as precedent the committee’s 2006 decision to investigate claims that Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, sent sexually explicit messages to former male pages. The committee’s decision came after Foley stepped down from Congress. That inquiry also examined how some House leaders ignored claims about Foley’s conduct while others tried to shield his behavior from public disclosure.
Sounds like this could very well be the Democrats’ “Foleygate” moment. Jennifer Rubin, referencing Poltico’s report on what Pelosi’s office knew and when, sees shades of Foleygate in all this as wel, but adds:
Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.
Arguably, 2010 isn’t like 2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.
What comes around goes around, and all that.
Update – 6:19 PM: Sorry for the late update. Been a hectic day on multiple fronts. I see that the ethics probe will go on after all into who knew what and when, thanks to a strong push by the House GOP. Good for them. Michelle Malkin’s got the details and the roll call vote.
That said, I’m not expecting too much out of this, because essentially you’ve got Democrats policing each other. Not only that, but as ST reader NC Cop notes in the comments:
However, I have a feeling NOW the media will focus on this. Of course, it will be to bash Republicans for playing “partisan politics” or for focusing on politics when the nation is “hurting” so badly. You get the idea. In the end the “investigation” will go nowhere or be dropped later.
Yep. Even though the media has reported on this story more than I figured they would, now that the ethics probe will happen I suspect that NC Cop’s prediction is right on the mark. We saw the same BS happen during the Lewinksy scandal. It always cracks me up to hear liberals try and say there’s no way the media was liberally biased during the Clinton years because “they covered MonicaGate in great detail!!!” Of course, what these same liberals will never admit is that the media, while indeed reporting it, focused on making Bubba a “victim” of a “vast right wing conspiracy”, while at the same time trying to paint the GOP as being “obsessed with sex” when in actuality it was the lying under oath that most concerned the GOP. And in the end, the media’s portrayal of Clinton aided him in avoiding a complete impeachment, and seeing his approval ratings hover in the mid-50s throughout the scandal.
This afternoon’s vote is an interesting development, but I suspect it’s mostly symbolic in nature. Congressional Democrats aren’t exactly well known for holding their own accountable.