California Congresswoman Katie Hill Resigns After Allegations Of Affairs With Two Staffers Surface

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Who Is Katie Hill? New Details On California Congresswoman Who Allegedly Had Affairs With Two Staffers

2019 has been a year of nearly constant political scandal but they've mainly been about corruption. It's been a while since political junkies had a good old fashioned sex scandal to distract them. That changed last week when allegations broke that Representative Katie Hill of California was having an affair with at least one, and maybe two, members of her staff.

Both RedState and the Daily Mail published photos and texts that show that Hill was engaged in a long-term consensual polyamorous relationship with her husband and a young woman who worked on her Congressional campaign. Hill doesn't deny the relationship but she did end it when she came to Washington. She also filed for divorce from her husband earlier this year. To add more fuel to the fire, the articles allege that she is currently involved with her legislative director. Hill categorically denies that accusation.

The problem with all these relationships is that Members of Congress aren't allowed the get romantically involved with their staff. The House passed a rule about that in 2018. Now Hill is facing an ethics investigation to see if she violated House rules with her relationship with her campaign staffer and if she is dating her legislative director. 

She has also asked the Capitol Police to investigate how nude photos of her got leaked and whether she has a revenge porn case against whoever leaked them. 

Who is Katie Hill? Read on for all the details. 

1. 2018 Blue Wave

Katie Hill flipped a Republican seat outside of L.A. in the 2018 Blue Wave election. Prior to running for office, she worked as an advocate for the homeless. "The daughter of a registered nurse and police officer, Katie most recently worked as Executive Director of PATH (People Assisting The Homeless), the largest homeless services organization in California," her official bio states. "Under Katie’s leadership, in just four years PATH helped more than 7,000 chronically homeless individuals, veterans, and families make it off the streets into permanent housing." At only 30 years old when she announced her run for office, she had no prior legislative experience but she was involved in passing a ballot measure in L.A. that brought in over a billion dollars in new funding for assistance for the homeless.  

2. A favorite of Nancy Pelosi

Hill is considered a rising star within the party and was chosen by the freshman class of lawmakers as one of two representatives to House Leadership. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, perhaps seeing something of herself in her fellow Californian, selected her for an unusually high-ranking position for a new Member of Congress. Pelosi named her vice chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Hill could not have foreseen how critical a role that was when it was first assigned to her: the Oversight Committee is one of three House bodies conducting the impeachment investigation into Donald Trump. 

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3. A polyamorous relationship

Last week, the conservative site RedState posted photos and texts that reveal that Hill and her then-husband Kenny Helsep were in a consensual three-way relationship with another woman. The Daily Mail followed up with more texts and photos that confirm the allegations. While typically a couple's personal choices about their relationship and who they bring into it shouldn't be a matter of public speculation, in this case, it's complicated by the fact that the woman was a paid staffer on Hill's campaign. 

Hill has since admitted to the relationship and confirms that everyone involved was doing it of their own volition. She also made a statement explaining that the relationship happened in the framework of a difficult marriage that was beginning to unravel. "During the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign," Hill writes. "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." 

The published texts reveal that Hill ended the relationship with the woman to focus on her work in Congress. She is in the midst of a contentious divorce from her husband at this time, as well. 

Hill addressed the accusations.

4. Is it revenge porn?

Photos published by The Daily Mail show Hill and the woman in intimate settings and include some topless photos of the Representative. Hill is not the least bit amused at having her private photos smeared across the internet this way and she has lawyers taking action on her behalf. Politico reports that attorneys for HIll sent a cease and desist order to the publication. She has also reported the leak of the photos to the Capitol Police to investigate where they come from. It's possible the photos could be considered revenge porn, which is illegal in both D.C. and California. 

Hill seems to indicate that her ex-husband is one of the sources for the photo leaks. "I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me," she wrote in her statement. "But the truth is, distributing intimate photos with the intent to publish them is a crime, and the perpetrator should be punished to the full extent of the law. I have notified Capitol Police, who are investigating it, and therefore will have no further comment on the matter."

Neither RedState nor the Daily Mail has revealed who tipped them off about the relationship or where they got the photos but the New York Post reports that Helsep may be behind the distribution of some pics. According to the NYP, the Daily Mail says there are more personal photos "posted somewhere online by Heslep “under a thread called ‘WouldYouF**kMyWife.’ ” If there are, that is almost certainly a violation of California's revenge porn laws. 

5. A second relationship

Helsep appears to be the source of the second allegation that claims that Hill is currently involved in a relationship with her legislative director Graham Kelly. Politico reports that Helsep is the one who started that rumor, which Hill denies in her statement. "Allegations that I have been involved in a relationship with Mr. Kelly are absolutely false,” Hill wrote. “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.” 

Hill has reportedly spoken to Democratic leadership about the allegations and denied them. Graham Kelly has not commented on the matter at this time. No publications have been able to reach Helsep for comment. 

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6. Ethics investigation

The House Committee on Ethics has opened an investigation into the allegations of relationships between HIll and her employees. Relationships like this are not unheard of — for example, former Speaker Newt Gingrich engaged in an extramarital affair with Agriculture Committee staffer Callista Bisek while he was still married to his second wife Marriane Ginther. He was married to his first wife when he began an affair with Ginther, who was a volunteer on his campaign at the time. He suggested an open relationship to Ginther in the hopes that he could avoid another divorce and still keep seeing Callista. That didn't work and they split in 1999. He married Callista in 2000. She is now the Trump administration's ambassador to the Vatican. 

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Despite the long and storied history of affairs in politics, in the era of the #MeToo movement, House leadership felt it was prudent to define appropriate workplace conduct. NBC reports that House rules state explicitly that Members “may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner.”  

While Hill was not a Member of Congress when she began the relationship with her campaign staffer and not technically obligated to follow House rules, the Ethics committee has ruled that “misconduct relating to a successful campaign for election to the House” does fall under its jurisdiction and will, therefore, consider the relationship in its investigation, according to the Washington Post. Hill plans to cooperate with the investigation. 

The Ethics Committee is investigating.

7. Double standards for women?

Some of Hill's colleagues are reportedly upset that the repercussions of her relationship with a campaign staffer haven't been more severe. The Cut notes that some lawmakers feel that a man in a similar situation would have been pressured the resign. They cite the example of former Senator Al Franken to bolster their argument, forgetting that Franken resigned over accusations that he was groping people without their permission. Unwanted sexual touching is a misdemeanor crime, whereas having an affair with a subordinate in simply a violation of House rules of conduct. 

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8. She resigned

On Sunday evening October 27, Representative Katie Hill announced that instead of following through with the ethics investigation, she would resign from Congress. “It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” Hill wrote in a statement. “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country.” She will not leave office immediately, the Washington Post reports, but will decide on the best exit date. The state of California will hold a special election to replace her. 
It’s not clear what drove the decision to resign after saying earlier that she would stick around and let the investigation run its course. Speaker Pelosi supports the decision, however, saying that she “acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable.”
Commentators on social media have questioned why Hill has to resign when Members like Duncan Hunter remain in office despite extramarital affairs that he paid for with campaign funds. The primary difference seems to be that other Members caught having affairs weren’t having them with people on their payroll. While an affair with a non-staffer isn’t exactly political gold, it also isn’t a violation of the House rules of conduct. 
As for Hill’s future, she says she intends to focus on combatting revenge porn. 

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.