By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) requested an ethics investigation of himself yesterday after ABC News reported that he paid hush money to a former mistress who once worked on his staff and was threatening to sue him.
According to ABC News's Web site, which cited anonymous sources, Mahoney, 52, paid $121,000 to former staffer Patricia Allen and arranged a $50,000-a-year job for her at a Nashville-based public relations agency. Mahoney won the seat in 2006 after GOP Rep. Mark Foley resigned amid reports that he sent sexually themed electronic messages to male former congressional pages.
"While these allegations are based on hearsay, I believe that my constituents need a full accounting," Mahoney, who is married, said in a statement yesterday that did not address whether the allegations were true. "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."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also called for the ethics committee to investigate the "serious allegations."
Telephone calls to Allen's home in Hobe Sound, Fla., were not returned yesterday. Calls to Mahoney's campaign and an e-mail message to his congressional spokeswoman also were not returned.
A spokesman for Tom Rooney, a Republican lawyer who is challenging Mahoney for the House seat, declined to comment on the matter yesterday.
Mahoney's constituents will deliver their verdict before the ethics panel does. Congress is not in session, but even if it were, there would be too little time to complete an investigation before the Nov. 4 election.
Meanwhile, Fletcher Rowley Chao Riddle, the firm at which Mahoney allegedly secured a job for Allen, severed ties with the congressman yesterday. Mahoney had paid the agency more than $1.8 million for media consulting and advertising services since 2006, according to campaign finance disclosure filings.
"Tim Mahoney apparently included our company in a secret legal settlement without the knowledge of our firm," Bill Fletcher, the agency's chief executive, said in a statement citing the news report. "Our firm did not agree to any legal settlement."
Allen, 50, worked as a consultant on Mahoney's campaign in 2006 and was employed as a constituent liaison on his district staff for parts of 2007 and 2008, according to congressional records.
After the alleged affair went sour, a man identified by ABC News as Mahoney can be heard angrily firing a woman identified as Allen in a recording of a Jan. 20 phone call that ABC News posted on its Web site yesterday.
"You work at my pleasure. . . . If you're doing the job that I think that you should do, you get to keep your job," Mahoney said. "Whenever I don't feel like you are doing your job, you lose your job. The only person that matters is, guess who? -- Me. Do you understand that? This is how life really is. This is how it works."
"You're upset about something else," Allen said. Later, she added: "You're firing me for other reasons, and you're not man enough to say it."
In 2006, the disclosure of Foley's inappropriate e-mails dealt a blow to Republican electoral fortunes, as Democrats portrayed the GOP as fostering a "culture of corruption" on Capitol Hill. Mahoney, a wealthy businessman and venture capitalist, won the House seat that year while pledging to give children "a world that is safer, more moral."
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, approached Mahoney early last year after hearing a rumor about an affair and "told him he was in public life and had a responsibility to act accordingly and appropriately," said a spokeswoman for Emanuel.
More recently, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, spoke with Mahoney and "urged him to come clean with his constituents if there was any truth to the rumor," said Jennifer Crider, a DCCC spokeswoman.
Staff writer Paul Kane and staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.