WASHINGTON (CNN) - Florida Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney called on the House ethics committee to investigate his own behavior after ABC News reported that he paid a former staffer who was also his mistress $121,000 to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Mahoney, who is married, did not directly address the ABC report, but said in a written statement, "I was notified this afternoon about a story that ran on ABC News' web site reporting allegations about a former employee. While these allegations are based on hearsay, I believe that my constituents need a full accounting. As such, I have requested the House ethics committee to review these allegations. I am confident that when the facts are presented that I will be vindicated."
The ABC story said Mahoney began an affair with Patricia Allen during his campaign in 2006. Allen was later hired to work for Mahoney's Florida congressional office. In addition to the $121,000 legal settlement, the story reports that Mahoney secured Allen a job at the consulting firm that handles his campaign commercials. A spokesman in Mahoney's campaign office in Florida declined to answer any questions regarding the allegations in the ABC report.
Mahoney's West Palm Beach area congressional seat was formerly held by Republican Mark Foley, who resigned in late 2006 after his own sex scandal involving inappropriate communication with male House pages.
A senior Democratic operative said that with these allegations surfacing in the same district that Mark Foley served, "the irony is not lost on any of us."
After Mahoney called for the investigation, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said, "I just learned today about the serious allegations concerning Congressman Tim Mahoney. These charges must be immediately and thoroughly investigated by the House Ethics Committee."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, recently confronted Mahoney about a report that he had been unfaithful to his wife. According to DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider, "After a rumor recently surfaced on a blog about Mr. Mahoney's affair, the chairman spoke briefly once with Mr. Mahoney about his responsibility as an elected
official to act appropriately and urged him to come clean with his constituents if there was any truth to the rumor."
In a sign of how politically devastating the allegations are for Mahoney's chances of re-election, The Cook Political Report, a publication that rates congressional races, swiftly moved its rating on Monday for his Florida seat from "Lean Democratic" to "Lean Republican."