WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) took two male pages with him on a three-day camping trip in 1996, former congressional pages and National Park Service officials have told NBC News.
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The pages, who were 17 at the time, went rafting and camping with Kolbe in the Grand Canyon over the July 4th holiday that year.
A spokeswoman for Kolbe confirmed the overnight trip but said that the pages did not travel alone with Kolbe.
The congressman's sister, along with office staffers and several Park Service employees, traveled with Kolbe and the pages, Kolbe spokeswoman Korenna Cline said.
Gary Cummins, the deputy superintendent of Grand Canyon in 1996, told NBC News that he was also on the trip with Kolbe. Cummins confirmed that two young men were on the trip with Kolbe and were part of a larger group.
Kolbe's spokeswoman said the pages paid their own way on the trip. She added that Kolbe sat on the House Interior Committee at the time, and was visiting the Grand Canyon to study Park Service operations and to perform "fire reconnaissance."
Openly gay congressman
Kolbe is the only openly gay Republican congressman. He has been active with the congressional page program for years, and was himself a page in 1958 for Sen. Barry Goldwater.
This week, Kolbe got dragged into the controversy surrounding disgraced Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.). In a statement on Tuesday, Kolbe acknowledged that he had known for years about e-mails from Foley that had made one former page "uncomfortable."
He said he had no idea the e-mails from Foley to the page were "sexually explicit" and defended his decision to only pass along the page's complaint to Foley's office and to the clerk who oversaw the page program. Kolbe did not inform the House leadership.
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