Disgraced Florida Republican Representative Mark Foley made friends with a wide circle of teenaged House of Representatives pages, then singled out “hot” boys to write to, according to reports.

The Washington Post claims to have identified four more former pages who said they were sexually solicited by Mr Foley, who has resigned since the scandal broke last month.

One former page, who was not identified, told Reuters that Mr Foley sent him e-mails when he was 16 asking about “my roommates, if I ever saw them naked.” Later, the former page said the politician hinted about a job opportunity “because I was a hot boy,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Two years later, the page, now 22, said, he wrote to Mr Foley to ask about hotels in Washington. “You could always stay at my place. I’m always here, I’m always lonely, and I’m always up for oral sex,” he quoted the disgraced former member of Congress as saying.

Another former page interviewed by the Post said he felt he had to flirt with Mr Foley.

“I didn’t want to piss off a member of an institution that I really revered,” the former Republican page said. “I figured maybe someday I will want to be involved in Congress. I didn’t want to make an enemy.”

Republican leaders have said they did not know about the explicit e-mails sent by Foley before media reports, but a former top aide has said he told senior aides to majority leader Dennis Hastert about Foley’s behaviour three years ago.

The scandal has added to a growing list of threats to Republican domination of the House in next month’s elections.

One of the inescapable facts of the scandal involving the former Representative, according to South Florida’s .Sun-Sentinal, is that three key people who had some of the earliest clues about the congressman’s advances toward teenage boys are, like Foley, gay.

Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman from Arizona, received a complaint from a former page in 2001 or 2002 that Foley had sent the boy e-mails that made him uncomfortable. Jeff Trandahl, the House clerk in charge of the page programme, was so concerned about Foley’s behaviour several years ago that he reported it to Kirk Fordham, Foley’s chief of staff. All of them are openly gay.

The question of who knew what, and when, has roiled the uneasy peace between the Republican Party and its cadre of gay staffers, who don’t welcome the spotlight. It also has raised the question: Were Mr Kolbe, Mr Fordham and Mr Trandahl trying to downplay the Foley issue to protect a fellow gay Republican?

Gay political activists and others told the .Sun-Sentinal that’s not the case. They say the men did more than others to alert people about Foley, who resigned from Congress at the end of September after the disclosure of sexually explicit messages he sent to a former page.

“Mistakes were made by a lot of people. Some of them were gay, some of them were straight, but sexual orientation was sort of irrelevant to what happened,” Patrick Sammon, executive vice president of the national Log Cabin Republicans, a gay political group, said.

Revelations about the prevalence of gay Republican staffers on Capitol Hill have shaken conservatives. As clerk of the House, Mr Trandahl wielded enormous influence over the workings of the Capitol, while Mr Fordham until recently was chief of staff to Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“This raises yet another plausible question for values voters: Has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by homosexual members and or staffers?” Perkins, the Family Research Council president, asked in a recent e-mail to supporters, reports the Sun-Sentinal. “When we look over events of this Congress, we have to wonder.”

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