What with all of the Baghdadi fever sweeping the media landscape yesterday, it might have been fairly easy to miss one story that’s been bubbling away under the surface for a few weeks now. Embattled Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill has been making a name for herself recently, ever since reports (and, um… photos) emerged depicting her somewhat polyamorous method of campaign staff management. Those revelations led to the opening of an official House Ethics Committee investigation into her comings and goings, (sorry…) while she continued (for a while) to insist she wasn’t engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the female staffer she was pictured brushing the hair of… while naked. (What? Your boss doesn’t do that with you?)
Anyway, the saga appears to be coming to an end. While the news cycle was exploding over military matters in Syria, Hill somewhat quietly announced that she would be stepping down from her congressional office. (Associated Press)
Freshman Rep. Katie Hill, a rising Democratic star in the House, announced her resignation Sunday amid an ethics probe, saying explicit private photos of her with a campaign staffer had been “weaponized” by her abusive husband and political operatives.
The California Democrat, 32, had been hand-picked for a coveted leadership seat. But in recent days, compromising photos of Hill and purported text messages from her to a campaign staffer surfaced online in a right-wing publication and a British tabloid.
The House ethics committee also launched an investigation into whether Hill had an inappropriate relationship with an aide in her congressional office. Hill has denied that.
This entire affair – if you’ll pardon the pun – has all the elements of a made-for-TV movie, but whether or not any actual laws were broken remains a mystery. NBC’s coverage of the resignation points out the one thing that Hill finally admitted to… that she was engaged in a relationship with a female campaign aide while running for office and that eventually contributed to her estrangement from her husband and their eventual divorce proceedings. She apparently terminated the relationship with the aide before taking office.
She’s quoted as saying, “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.”
What she denies is a second affair after taking office with a male staff member. I’m pretty sure there’s a technical distinction between the two situations, if not a moral one. It’s definitely a violation of congressional ethics rules for a member of Congress to engage in sexual relations with a staff member, but that’s the part she’s denying. Having such a relationship with a campaign aide while still just a candidate is probably a slightly different question. You still shouldn’t be sleeping with those who report to you, particularly if the young woman was a paid member of the campaign staff as opposed to a volunteer. But is it illegal?
The fact that this scandal involved a lesbian relationship and/or polyamory shouldn’t come into the debate in legal terms as neither is against the law. But it certainly ramps up the gawking factor.
Either way, it’s probably still a matter of very poor judgment at a minimum and the Ethics Committee could have taken her to task over it. I’m not sure if it would have qualified for removal, but she could certainly have been looking at censure of some sort. But now it apparently won’t matter. Hill is on her way out the door and that closely divided district’s seat will once again be up for grabs. Let’s just hope the “grabbing” remains strictly rhetorical in nature.