HASTERT-GATE….It’s more than just conveniently timed earmarks over at the speaker’s office, of course. Foley-gate is still plowing forward at full ramming speed.

Hastert’s story so far is that his staff was told about Foley’s emails last year, but the emails were merely “over-friendly,” not explicit. Foley was cautioned, and given what they knew at the time, that was the appropriate thing to do.

But Kirk Fordham says Hastert’s office had been aware of Foley’s problems long before 2005, and today another congressional staffer backed him up, saying that Hastert’s chief of staff originally confronted Foley back in 2003:

The staff member said Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, met with the Florida Republican at the Capitol to discuss complaints about Foley’s behavior toward pages. The alleged meeting occurred long before Hastert says aides in his office dispatched Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.) and the clerk of the House in November 2005 to confront Foley about troubling e-mails he had sent to a Louisiana boy.

….Sources close to Fordham say [House Clerk Jeff] Trandahl repeatedly urged [Fordham] to confront Foley about his inappropriate advances on pages. Each time, Foley pledged to no longer socialize with the teenagers, but, weeks later, Trandahl would again alert Fordham about more contacts. Out of frustration, the sources said, Fordham contacted Palmer, hoping that an intervention from such a powerful figure in the House would persuade Foley to stop.

So those “over-friendly” emails weren’t just some over-friendly emails. They were the latest in a string of warnings, and Hastert’s office knew it. They had every reason to think that serious action was required.

Needless to say, Palmer denies all this, and Trandahl has resolutely refused to talk to the press. Stay tuned.