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U.S. Rep. Katie Hill, an early leader among first-term members of the U.S. House and the first openly bisexual person elected to the House, resigned Sunday night. In a letter posted at 7 p.m. ET Sunday on Twitter, Hill said she was “fearful” of continued “private photos of personal moments” being “weaponized” against her by “my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives.”
The House Committee on Ethics announced Oct. 23 that it had become “aware of public allegations that Representative Katie Hill may have engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual on her congressional staff.” U.S. House Rule XXIII, Clause 18(a) under the House Code of Official Conduct states that a member of Congress “may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member … or who is an employee of a committee on which the Member [serves] …”
Hill denied having sexual relations with a man on her Congressional staff but acknowledged having an “inappropriate” relationship with a woman on her campaign staff. House rules do not govern candidates for office, only members of Congress.
Within minutes of Hill’s announcement Sunday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement.
“Congresswoman Katie Hill came to Congress with a powerful commitment to her community and a bright vision for the future, and has made a great contribution as a leader of the freshman class,” she said. “She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a member untenable. We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.”
California Gove. Gavin Newsom has not yet announced his choice for an interim replacement for Hill. Some news reports speculate he may schedule a special election to fill the vacancy on March 3, when California holds its presidential primary.
Hill became the first openly bisexual person to be elected to the U.S. House in November 2018, when she defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Knight. She was quickly chosen to be part of the speaker of the house’s “leadership team” and vice-chair of the House Committee on Oversight, which was involved in impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
According to the Washington Post, the revelations about Hill’s personal relationships first emerged on a conservative political website, RedState.com.
RedState.com’s first story appeared on Oct. 18, noting that Hill is vice chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, one of the key committees looking into whether President Trump has committed acts worthy of having him removed from office.
In “that spirit,” said the article, RedState was reporting that it had obtained photographs and text messages showing that Hill “was involved in a long-term sexual relationship with a female campaign staffer” and that the staffer, Hill, and Hill’s husband had developed a “throuple” relationship. The website published three photos of Hill. In one of those photos, Hill is shown naked, brushing the hair of a fully clothed woman sitting between her knees.
The RedState article alleged that text messages it obtained indicate Hill broke off the relationship with the female campaign staffer and her husband, telling them she wanted to be alone and focus on her work. But RedState said Hill’s husband, Kenny Heslep, heard that Hill had started a new sexual relationship with her Congressional legislative director, a man. RedState said Heslep filed for divorce after learning about the male Congressional staffer.
The RedState article says that Hill’s extramarital relationships pose national security risks, given that Hill serves on both the oversight and armed services committees.
In a letter to her constituents Oct. 23, Hill acknowledged the relationship with her female campaign aide, saying it began during the “final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage.”
“I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgement. For that I apologize,” wrote Hill.
But Hill denied having an inappropriate relationship with a male Congressional staffer, calling that accusation “absolutely false.”
The next day, the British tabloid the Daily Mail published an additional photo it identified as Hill, naked and holding a bong. The paper says meta data from its photo indicates it was taken in September 2017, before recreational marijuana use was legalized in California. The tabloid pointed out a tattoo in her groin area that it says is a “Nazi-era iron cross.” The paper did not indicate where the photo was taken, how it obtained or whether it was authenticated.
Hill is not the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress to be subjected to a house ethics investigation of allegations related to an inappropriate relationship. Previous investigations have been conducted on former U.S. Reps. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.). The House censured Studds for his relationship with a 17-year-old Congressional page and reprimanded Frank for an “attempt to use [his] political influence” to help a man with whom he had a relationship.