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Massa investigated for allegedly groping staffers

"This is a man as close to me as my father. For 40 years we were close friends," Massa said, adding, "I hope someday we'll talk about it."

Hikel, reached at his home Tuesday, declined to comment on the ethics investigation.

Massa's decline from first-term Democratic congressman to former lawmaker embroiled in an alleged sex scandal occurred in just 14 months. Democrats had celebrated his arrival after he seized a Republican-held seat, but that ended shortly after House ethics investigators began pressing his employees to explain what exact terms he used with them and the specific circumstances in which he touched them.

While Massa was appearing on national television, his history as a public official was being scrubbed from his congressional Web site. Constituents looking for Rep. Massa online were told that he had resigned and that most of their questions should be directed to the clerk of the House. Callers seeking to reach Massa were told Tuesday that the staff no longer worked for him and that they did not know how to contact him, even as he was at a television studio a few blocks from the Capitol.

Though Massa has resigned, it is possible that the ethics investigation will continue, according to two sources. The reason for such an inquiry would to be to address the circumstances of any hostile work environment. There are no indications that any of the harassment allegations were shared with law enforcement officials.

Massa's resignation and broadsides against top Democrats have brought him more notoriety out of office than he ever received during his stint in the House.

Though some conservatives pointed to Massa's allegations of being strong-armed by Democratic leaders on health-care reform as emblematic of the kind of tactics that the majority is embracing in the debate, Massa's original critique of the House measure was that it was not liberal enough.

Massa voted against the House bill in November because, he said at the time, it did not include the "robust" public option he sought and because it would "not do enough to regulate the private for-profit health insurance industry and will actually empower them further."

Beyond that vote, Massa did relatively little in the House to draw attention to himself. He sponsored no bills of note and compiled a largely moderate voting record, voting against the health-care measure and last year's "cap and trade" climate bill, while supporting the economic stimulus package and Democrats' budget resolution. Massa touted the fact that the National Journal put him in the "centrist" category after ranking lawmakers' 2009 votes.

After more than two decades in the Navy, during which he reached the rank of commander, Massa moved to Upstate New York to work for the manufacturing company Corning. In his official biography, he says he was laid off from his job because, "due to unfair free trade agreements, the company could not afford to keep those jobs in America."

Massa then became a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee. He says in his biography that he was an early critic of the Bush administration's strategy for invading Iraq and that he was "forced out" of his Armed Services job for "standing up against the failed pre-war planning." Congressional salary data on file at the Web site Legistorm shows that Massa was employed by the committee for eight months in 2003.

Previously a Republican, Massa switched parties after leaving the House payroll and went on to work for the 2004 presidential campaign of retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, for whom Massa had worked when Clark was supreme allied commander of NATO.

Staff writers Ben Pershing and Scott Butterworth and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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