House Ethics Committee Investigates Fla. Democrat

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 18, 2008

The House ethics committee announced yesterday that it intends to interview Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) about his settlement of a sexual harassment allegation made by a female aide with whom he had an extramarital affair.

In its first formal indication that an investigation had begun, the ethics panel issued a statement late yesterday afternoon saying it planned a broad probe that could include interviews with other lawmakers aware of the allegations. It comes just weeks before Mahoney, 52, faces voters in his Palm Beach-based district.

On Monday, ABC News reported that the freshman lawmaker had paid $121,000 to former staffer Patricia Allen, 50, who accused him of firing her because she ended the affair. In interviews yesterday with local media, Mahoney admitted to an affair with Allen and with a county official whom he helped secure $3.4 million in federal funding for hurricane cleanup efforts.

Mahoney also admitted to the Associated Press that he had had "multiple" other affairs but declined to specify how many or with whom. "You're asking me over a lifetime? I'm just saying I've been unfaithful and I'm sorry for that," he said. He stressed that he had broken no laws.

Mahoney won Florida's 16th Congressional District in 2006 after incumbent Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned amid revelations of lurid messages he sent to teenage House pages.

Mahoney's lawyer said that in the legal settlement with Allen, Mahoney gave her $61,000 and her lawyer $60,000. He spent an additional $20,000 on his own legal team. Mahoney said the settlement came from his personal funds, not from campaign money or his congressional office account.

ABC News and the Associated Press have reported that the FBI has contacted Mahoney about the payments.

Mahoney, whose official Web site says he has been married for 22 years and is the father of a college-age child, met Allen when she volunteered on his 2006 campaign, then hired her onto his congressional staff. Records show she left the staff in June 2007 and shifted to working for his political campaign.

Mahoney said Allen was fired for performance issues, not because of the affair. But ABC obtained a recording of a cellphone call in which she accuses him of firing her for other reasons. Records show her last paycheck from the campaign was issued Feb. 2.

Under normal circumstances, the House ethics committee would not begin an investigation so close to Election Day. If a lawmaker under ethical scrutiny loses a reelection bid, the panel often drops the matter. The announcement that the committee intends to interview Mahoney followed requests by him and the Democratic leadership to investigate the matter.

The panel's aides did not return calls seeking comment about when they would interview Mahoney and who else would be called to testify.

House Republican leaders have demanded that the committee also interview Democratic leaders because several have acknowledged confronting Mahoney about the affairs. They include Reps. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Chris Van Hollen (Md.).

Aides said yesterday that Emanuel would welcome the opportunity to talk to the committee. Emanuel has said he had one conversation with Mahoney in early 2007, when he first heard rumors of affairs, and told him to act responsibly.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company