Wednesday, October 15, 2008
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Oct. 14 -- Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.), facing accusations he paid a former aide to keep her quiet about an affair, admitted yesterday that he caused "embarrassment and heartache" to his family but denied doing anything illegal.
Mahoney did not directly address the alleged affair during a news conference but issued a statement taking "full responsibility for my actions and the pain I have caused my wife Terry and my daughter Bailey."
"No marriage is perfect," Mahoney said, "but our private life is our private life."
He said he never misused campaign funds and was confident he would be cleared of wrongdoing.
"I have not violated my oath of office, nor have I violated any laws," Mahoney said in the statement. He did not answer questions.
The statement came one day after ABC News reported that Mahoney, 52, had an affair with an aide while campaigning for Congress and then paid her $121,000 to keep her quiet and avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit. After the report, Mahoney called for an investigation into his conduct by the House ethics committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also called for an inquiry.
The FBI has begun reaching out to lawyers involved in the matter, said a high-level Democratic operative who has been involved with Mahoney's campaign. The person declined to be identified because of the FBI's involvement.
Late Tuesday, a person close to Mahoney's campaign told the Associated Press that the congressman had an affair with a high-ranking county official in his Florida district after being elected to Washington.
That relationship took place, the person said, as Mahoney was lobbying the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse Martin County $3.4 million for damage caused by hurricanes in 2004. FEMA approved the money late last year.
Mahoney's congressional staff members declined to comment on the new allegation but noted that the congressman lobbies for FEMA funding throughout his district.
Two years ago, Mahoney, campaigning on a promise to return morals and family values to Washington, was elected to his seat after Republican Mark Foley resigned from Congress. Foley had sent lurid Internet messages to male teenagers who had worked as congressional pages; he was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by state and federal authorities.
Republicans seized on Mahoney's troubles. The seat is considered to be one of the more competitive House races, and Mahoney had a tough challenge in a district that has traditionally leaned slightly Republican. He faces former Army officer Tom Rooney, a lawyer whose family owns the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We're pleased that an ethics investigation has been called for, but quite frankly, we're not going to know the answers in three weeks unless Congressman Mahoney literally sits down . . . and answers some questions," said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.