Congresswoman denies relationship with aide, acknowledges prior relationship with campaign staffer
The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that U.S. Rep. Katie Hill engaged in a sexual relationship with a member of her congressional staff, according to an announcement Wednesday by the committee’s chair and ranking member.
In an email to supporters Wednesday, Hill denied a relationship with the congressional aide but acknowledged a previous relationship with a campaign staffer.
“The committee is aware of public allegations that Rep. Katie Hill may have engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual on her congressional staff, in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 18(a). The committee, pursuant to Committee Rule 18(a), has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations,” read the announcement from Chair Ted Deutch, D-Florida, and ranking member Kenny Marchant, R-Texas.
“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 on behalf of the committee,” the announcement said. “No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with committee rules.”
Hill, D-Agua Dulce, was not immediately available for comment. However, in an email to her supporters Wednesday afternoon, she repeated her previous denial of a relationship with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, but acknowledged having a prior relationship with a female campaign staffer.
“During the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign,” Hill said in the email. “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. I wish nothing but the best for her and hope everyone respects her privacy in this difficult time.”
Hill, who represents the 25th Congressional District, which includes the Santa Clarita, Antelope and Simi valleys, added, “I am saddened that the deeply personal matter of my divorce has been brought into public view, even the false allegations of a relationship with my congressional staffer, which I have publicly denied, and I am fully and proactively cooperating with the Ethics Committee.”
Because Kelly is a congressional employee, such a relationship would be a violation of House ethics rules.
The Wednesday email echoed the content of a statement Hill issued Tuesday, denying the allegations of an affair with Kelly and calling for Capitol Hill police to investigate the release of intimate photos of her and a former campaign staffer without her consent, after the conservative blog RedState published articles and photos of her with the female campaign staffer.
“Intimate photos of me and another individual were published by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent,” Hill said in the prepared statement. “I have notified Capitol Hill police who are investigating the situation and potential legal violations of those who posted and distributed the photos, and therefore will have no further comment on the digital materials.”
The congresswoman said in her statement that the allegations of an affair with Kelly stem from her pending divorce from estranged husband, Kenny Heslep, who has purportedly posted about it on social media. To date there has been no published proof of a relationship between Hill and Kelly, and Heslep has not responded to requests for comment or to confirm that the social media posts and texts cited by RedState are authentic.
“Allegations that I have been involved in a relationship with Mr. Kelly are absolutely false,” Hill said in the statement. “I am saddened that the deeply personal matter of my divorce has been brought into public view and the vindictive claims of my ex have now involved the lives and reputations of unrelated parties.”
Upon the release of Hill’s statement on Tuesday, the story of her denial of a relationship with Kelly gained broader media traction, garnering coverage from the New York Times, Washington Post, FOX News, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, several L.A. television stations, and more.
“I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain,” her statement said. “This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and people close to me is despicable and will not succeed. I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.”
The news stories have prompted a flurry of reactions on social media, both locally and nationally. Hill’s supporters have broadly condemned the release of the private images and texts, with many characterizing it as “revenge porn” and saying it was a private matter among consenting adults that never should have been published.
Hill’s opponents have called her ethics into question, arguing that the materials demonstrate poor judgment by the congresswoman, and the previous “throuple” relationship among her, Heslep and a female campaign staffer was inappropriate because the woman was a subordinate at the time.
Hill’s statement added: “This smear campaign will not get in the way of the work I am doing every day to move our district and our country forward. I am truly grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from colleagues and constituents alike, and I know we will get through this together.”
The congresswoman’s email to supporters said she would have no further public comment for the time being. “Out of respect for the law enforcement and the Ethics Committee, I will not have more to say on this subject until their work is concluded.”