Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) on Tuesday denied allegations that she had an improper relationship with a congressional staffer, accusing Republican operatives and her husband of coordinating a “smear campaign” amid the couple’s pending divorce.

In a statement, Hill denied allegations that she was romantically involved with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, and condemned the distribution of sexually charged photos that allegedly involved a campaign staffer. The allegations were published last week by the conservative website

“Allegations that I have been involved in a relationship with Mr. Kelly are absolutely false,” Hill said in the statement. “I am saddened that the deeply personal matter of my divorce has been brought into public view and the vindictive claims of my ex have now involved the lives and reputations of unrelated parties.”

Neither Kenny Heslep, Hill’s husband, nor Kelly, who is still employed by Hill’s office, responded to requests for comment Tuesday. The divorce proceedings between Hill and Heslep began this summer, Los Angeles County court records show.

A senior Democratic aide confirmed that Hill reached out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office to deny any wrongdoing.

Under House ethics rules adopted last year in response to high-profile sexual harassment claims involving members of Congress, it is against the official code of conduct for members to “engage in a sexual relationship with any employee” who works for the member.

The RedState article also alleged that Hill and her husband had been in a consensual relationship with a third person, a female campaign staffer in her 20s. The article included texts and intimate photos that it said included Hill and the staffer.

In her statement, Hill said she notified Capitol Hill police that the photos were released without her consent. The statement did not address whether Hill had a relationship with a campaign staffer. A spokesperson from the campaign said Hill is unable to comment on the identity of the woman in the photos due to the ongoing investigation into their leak.

“Intimate photos of me and another individual were published by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent,” Hill’s statement read, adding that she will not answer further questions on the photos.

“The fact is I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me,” her statement continued. “I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain.”

Hill, a former nonprofit-group executive from Santa Clarita, Calif., is considered a rising star among the Democrats. In the 2018 election, Hill unseated longtime incumbent Steve Knight, flipping the last Republican congressional seat in Los Angeles County and helping the party regain control of the House.

Her national profile grew quickly as a star fundraiser, raising over $8.3 million for her first House campaign.

During the campaign, Hill drew attention from an array of constituencies, including LGBTQ advocacy groups, a Los Angeles-area women’s network and Hollywood celebrities such as actress Kristen Bell, whom she met through her work advocating for the homeless.

As one of the first openly bisexual people to be elected to Congress, she came in with a freshman class championing diversity and female leadership in Congress.

She was appointed vice chair of the Oversight Committee, and she is among a group of freshman Democrats who earned the nickname the “Big Six” after being selected for high-profile leadership posts.

In her statement, Hill said the accusation of sexual impropriety “is despicable and will not succeed. I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.”

Scott Amey, general counsel at the good-government advocacy group Project On Government Oversight, said it would be a clear violation of the code of conduct if Hill had a relationship with a congressional staffer.

“I think it’s unfortunate, the circumstances here, both personally and professionally, but the rules are there to ensure that no one inside Congress is above the law,” Amey said.

If there is an investigation in the House, investigators may also look into the claims involving a campaign staffer.

Though the House code of conduct does not explicitly apply to relationships between members and campaign staffers, the Ethics Committee has previously investigated such claims and determined it has jurisdiction over “misconduct relating to a successful campaign for election to the House.”

Alice Crites and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.