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Heather Podesta dating filmmaker Stephen Kessler

Stephen Kessler, Heather Podesta at the Ford's Theater Annual Gala on June 2, 2013. (Photo by Tony Powell/Washington Life magazine) Stephen Kessler, Heather Podesta at the Ford’s Theater Annual Gala on June 2, 2013. (Photo by Tony Powell/Washington Life magazine)

Heather Podesta, the lobbyist/art collector whose divorce from fellow lobbyist and art-o-phile Tony Podesta is off to a contentious start, has long moved on from the couple’s crumbling marriage.

She’s been dating Los Angeles-based filmmaker Stephen Kessler, a relationship that began shortly after she and Podesta announced their split in January 2013, friends say. Kessler, sources say, is the unnamed man in Tony Podesta’s divorce filing: In his blistering complaint last week, Tony Podesta claimed that Heather Podesta asked him for money for a down payment on a house for herself in March  2013.

“Mr. Podesta, still believing in the likely possibility of reconciliation,” paid half of the “substantial” sum, the filing states. (Real-estate records show that in March, Heather Podesta bought a $3.8 million home in Kalorama with a down payment of nearly $1 million.) “Unbeknownst to Mr. Podesta, Ms. Podesta was already in a relationship with another man” at the time.

That move was intended to “embarrass and harass” Tony Podesta, the complaint states.

Heather Podesta, 44, and Kessler, 53, declined to comment.

But they have made little effort to conceal their relationship, appearing publicly together at parties in New York, L.A. and Washington, where they have posed arm-in-arm for society-page pictures. Kessler directed the 2011 documentary “Paul Williams Still Alive,” about the life of Williams, a 70s-era TV personality and composer, as well as the 1997 slapstick comedy “Vegas Vacation” starring Chevy Chase.

The once-divorced Kessler and the twice-divorced Podesta share politics (she’s an uber-connected former Democratic Hill staffer; he’s recently become a generous donor to Democratic causes and has written about pop culture and politics for the Huffington Post), as well as a love of the arts. “They  just seem like a really happy couple,” says one source who has socialized with them.

Make that extra-happy, says another source who once dined with them at a dinner fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Napa last August. All through dinner, including during a speech by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright,” they were all over each other,” the fellow-partygoer says. “It was total PDA.”

RELATED: “Tony Podesta divorce filing: wife Heather Podesta tried to ‘embarrass and harass’

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Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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