In its report, the ethics panel wrote, "A pattern of conduct was exhibited among many individuals to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences of former Republican Foley's conduct."

The scandal is widely believed to have helped the Democrats win control of the Congress in mid-term elections on November 7.

The ethics panel investigation focused largely on who knew about Foley's e-mail contacts with the young aides, when they knew it and what they did about it.

Tom Reynolds of New York, a republican representative, said publicly that he first warned Dennis Hastert, the house Speaker, about Foley in the spring of this year, telling him about an e-mail by the then-congressman sent to a former intern.

But Hastert said he did not recall such a conversation or one that John Boehner, the republican leader of the house, said he had with the speaker about Foley at about the same time.

With the support of George Bush, Hastert rejected calls to step aside as House speaker, the top job in the legislative body.