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Sources: Inquiry opened over Kolbe, male ex-pages

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. attorney in Arizona has begun a preliminary inquiry into a 1996 camping trip that included Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Arizona, and two male former congressional pages, according to two federal law enforcement officials who are familiar with the issue.

The officials said the initial assessment stems from a single allegation regarding Kolbe's behavior on the trip.

"This inquiry has just recently begun, and it is much too early to know whether there is anything there," said one official with knowledge of the matter.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department refused any comment.

Kolbe's spokeswoman, Korenna Cline, said she was not aware of the U.S. attorney's investigation.

On Tuesday, Kolbe denied a Washington Post report that he confronted former congressman Mark Foley about Foley's exchanges with teenage congressional pages. Kolbe said he knew of Foley e-mails that made a page "uncomfortable" and passed them on to Foley's office and the House clerk. (Watch how "corrective action was taken" in the matter -- 1:52)

Kolbe, an openly gay Republican, has served 22 years in the House and is retiring after this term. From 1996 to 2001, he served on the board that supervises the page program. Kolbe was himself a page for Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1950s.

The report of an inquiry comes amid a growing House scandal that began September 29 when Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned after sexually explicit instant messages from the six-term lawmaker to male congressional pages were leaked to the news media.

The furor about when Republican leaders in the House learned about Foley's conduct and what they then did has prompted calls for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign as he and other Republicans attempt to maintain control of Congress in midterm elections, just weeks away.

According to Kolbe's spokeswoman, he has not been invited to speak to the House ethics committee, which is investigating the allegations of improper behavior toward pages by Foley and how those allegations were handled by House leaders.

Grand Canyon trip

In the summer of 1996, Kolbe met with members of the National Park Service in the Grand Canyon, according to Cline. Kolbe toured operations and fire reconnaissance facilities.

At the time, Kolbe was a member of the Interior subcommittee, and this was an official trip, Cline said.

Toward the end of the trip, Kolbe was joined by five staffers from his Arizona district offices, as well as his sister and two former pages. The aide stressed that each member of the trip paid his or her own way, including Kolbe and the two former pages, and this was not part of the official business.

One person who was on the 1996 trip told CNN he felt Kolbe was overly friendly with one of the former pages. He said there was "hugging." But the source said he saw no sexual activity and also noted that everyone slept nearby and in the open because of the extreme heat. He told CNN he would be talking with the FBI on Friday.

CNN agreed not to identify the person, because he was concerned about future government employment.

"There is absolutely no basis and no truth to the allegations," Cline said Friday. "The congressman is shocked and stunned by the allegations."

Another person on the trip who asked not to be identified said he saw nothing untoward but added that he was not on the trip the whole time.

CNN has been unable to reach the pages who were on the trip. NBC reported Friday that the two pages are now in their late 20s. According to NBC, one page said Kolbe never acted improperly and the other refused to comment, saying he might be considered for a government job.

CNN's Todd Schwarzschild, Terry Frieden, Andrea Koppel, Kevin Bohn and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report

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From 1996 to 2001, Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Arizona, served on the board that supervises the congressional page program.




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