Fourth District congressional candidate Selden Spencer says inappropriate electronic messages allegedly sent to teenagers by former congressman Mark Foley are symptomatic of a Republican Congress that has failed in its oversight duties. Foley recently resigned after the e-mails and instant messages came to light.

Spencer, a Democrat, took part in a candidate forum today (Wednesday) with Republican incumbent Tom Latham, who declared Foley’s behavior outrageous and despicable. Latham says he’ll wait for investigations to be complete before deciding whether House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who’s charged with not acting on the information promptly, should resign.

If in fact it’s found there was information available that somebody didn’t act on, Latham says they should resign. But that’s after an investigation is done, he stressed, noting that the Speaker of the House is in a difficult situation. “A lot of this information, from my understanding, went to his staff, and how much he was informed himself I don’t know.”

Both ethics and criminal investigations have begun into the matter of Foley’s messages to teenage House pages, and some members of Congress have claimed Hastert was told as long as five years before the scandal broke. Spencer says he respects the need for clarification and understands the investigation is moving quickly — but says as a citizen, he finds the incident nauseating and distressing.

Spencer says a change is needed in Washington. “It’s a power thing,” Spencer says. “The way an average citizen looks at it, HJastert was doing what he needed to do to keep control of Congress.” While he says more information coming out might change his mind, Spencer says that’s what the situation looks like right now from the citizen’s point of view. Spencer and Latham spoke at a candidate forum today sponsored by Iowa Public Radio.