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 by the committee’s chair and ranking member.
The Congresswoman has denied having a relationship with a congressional staffer, which would be a violation of House ethics rules.
“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 was not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon, but on Tuesday she issued a statement denying the allegations of an affair with her legislative director and calling for Capitol Hill police to investigate the release of intimate photos of her and a former campaign staffer without her consent.
Hill, D-Agua Dulce, who represents the 25th Congressional District, which includes the Santa Clarita, Antelope and Simi valleys, issued the statement 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.”
Hill’s statement did not directly address her relationship with the former campaign staffer shown in the photos, but she denied having a relationship with Graham Kelly, her current legislative director. Because Kelly is a congressional employee, such a relationship would be a violation of House ethics rules.
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, 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.
“The fact is I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me,” Hill said in the statement. “I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain. 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.”