The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

House panel investigating Rep. Katie Hill amid allegations of improper relationship with staffer

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) denies allegations that she was romantically involved with her legislative director.
Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) denies allegations that she was romantically involved with her legislative director. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

The House Ethics Committee said Wednesday it is investigating Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) amid allegations that she had an intimate relationship with a congressional staffer in her office.

“The committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Katie Hill may have engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual on her congressional staff, in violation of” House rules, the panel said in a statement. “The committee … has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.”

The allegations first surfaced in an article on the conservative website The article alleged that Hill and her husband were in a consensual three-person relationship with a woman on her campaign team. The article included text messages it said were between Hill and the woman as well as intimate photos of them together.

The article also alleged that Hill was involved romantically with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, which would violate House ethics rules.

“I am beyond grateful for the work the Ethics Committee does to ensure transparency in Congress. I welcome this investigation and will be cooperating fully to clear this matter up,” Hill said in a statement Wednesday.

Hill, 31, confirmed that she was in a relationship with the female campaign staffer, according to the Los Angeles Times, but has denied that she had a romantic relationship with Kelly.

“Allegations that I have been involved in a relationship with Mr. Kelly are absolutely false,” Hill said in a statement she released Tuesday. “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 Wednesday. The divorce proceedings between Hill and Heslep began this summer, Los Angeles County court records show.

Hill is among the new class of freshmen who beat Republicans in 2018 to help the Democrats win back the majority. She is one of the first openly bisexual members of Congress.

Hill reported to Capitol Police that lewd photos of her had been published online. In a letter sent to constituents and obtained by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Hill called the action “a crime” and said “the perpetrator should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

She acknowledged in the letter that she did have a romantic relationship with a campaign staffer but has continued to deny the alleged affair with Kelly.

“I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment,” the letter read, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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 a member to “engage in a sexual relationship with any employee” who works for the member.

The House Ethics Committee, comprised of an equal number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, investigates possible violations by House members and offers verdicts. A House member who is found guilty of breaking House ethics rules can face myriad disciplinary actions including being stripped of committee leadership posts.

Hill is vice chair of the Oversight Committee, a rare powerful position for a freshman.

The Ethics Committee said in publicly revealing its investigation that the announcement “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee. No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules.”

Read more at PowerPost