The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation Wednesday into unsubstantiated claims that Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) had a relationship with a House staffer while in office.
Shortly after the committee announced its probe, Hill admitted in a letter to constituents that she had indeed had an inappropriate relationship with a campaign aide before she won a seat in Congress. However, she denied having an affair with a different individual — the congressional staffer — after she assumed office this year.
Hill said she would fully cooperate with the House probe and apologized for her behavior, which she said came “despite my better judgment.”
“During the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign,” Hill wrote in the letter, which was obtained by HuffPost. “I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment. For that I apologize.”
Hill, a freshman Democrat who is a rising star in the party, denied several times that she had a relationship with the staffer, which would be a violation of House ethics rules. (There are, however, no ethics restrictions covering the relationship she admitted to having before she took office.) The lawmaker is in the midst of a divorce and said Wednesday she was “saddened that the deeply personal matter” had come into public view.
The outlet that first published the claims also shared an intimate photo of Hill, which she said was published “by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent.”
“The truth is, distributing intimate photos with the intent to publish them is a crime, and the perpetrator should be punished to the full extent of the law,” Hill told her constituents on Wednesday. “I have notified Capitol Police, who are investigating it, and therefore will have no further comment on the matter.”
She also called the article a “smear campaign” and accused her husband of being “determined to humiliate me.”
“This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and people close to me is despicable and will not succeed,” she said in the statement. “I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.”
The ethics committee said it was aware of the allegations and stressed that launching the investigation did not mean that Hill had committed any impropriety.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment,” the group wrote.