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We all know a sex scandal doomed California Rep. Katie Hill. The millennial lawmaker announced her imminent resignation after it became abundantly clear she could no longer serve her constituents.
The rising star burned up in the political atmosphere for having an affair with an unnamed campaign staffer and, allegedly, with a senior aide, Graham Kelly.
House ethics explicitly forbids representatives from engaging in inappropriate relationships with subordinates.
Before tendering her resignation, the House Ethics Committee began an investigation into Hill.
The Ethics Committee does not investigate former members.
Investigators still found that Kelly, her legislative director, received a suspect “2018 election bonus” as her congressional aide. Kelly got the highest bonus, $5,100, paid out to Hill’s campaign staff.
Hill also supposedly used her newfound clout to help her now estranged husband find a job at the nonprofit agency that employed her before running for Congress.
The seat she won in last year’s blue wave, California’s 25th Congressional District, long tilted right. Despite its Republican predilections, Hill prevailed – after 26 years of GOP rule – over incumbent Rep. Steve Knight by nine points.
Yet years of hard work came undone in barely a week.
And the same electorate that sent Hill to Congress is now breathing a collective sigh of relief.
While opinion among voters runs the gamut, anecdotally, it seems, they most often express disappointment and cynicism.
However, the visceral reaction to Hill’s pain, and Graham’s, too, evokes sympathy from those with a more nuanced view.
Many argue that the compromising photographs of Hill are nothing more than revenge porn. While they mostly don’t deny Hill’s sexual misconduct has consequences that she alone must face, the photos online publication makes the soon to be gone representative also a victim of sexual exploitation.
Conservative and tabloid websites like the RedState and the Daily Mail further inaccurately reported that a Celtic cross tattoo on Hill’s abdomen was an Iron Cross.
The Nazi Party co-opted the longtime Germany military decoration in the 1930s.
Moreover, Jennifer Van Laar, the blogger from RedState who wrote pieces for both outlets worked for Hill’s Republican opponents without acknowledging it, or that her employer runs a GOP opposition research firm focused on California races. Failing to disclose her conservative résumé, sharing private photos unnecessarily and likely illegally, and making false claims about Hill’s tattoo all undermined the veracity of her original reporting.
The shame for conservatives rightfully cynical of Washington’s swampy culture is that the facts outlined in the first story were enough to initiate a House Ethics investigation into Hill’s behavior.
Smearing Hill mercilessly might feel good to some partisans, but it makes her something of a martyr in the eyes of most.
Understanding leftist tactics are crucial to recognizing why they are successful and learning how to defeat them. Their playbook, Rules for Radicals, is available for public consumption online or at your local library. Engaging in a scorched-earth campaign can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Although resigned to her political fate, Hill’s attorneys have begun pursuing legal options to potentially sue Van Laar. Even Capitol Police are investigating to determine if the publication of the photographs violated any laws.
The fast-moving developments have redrawn partisan fault lines that have long run deep in our nation’s capitol.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose affinity for Hill is well-known, supported her decision to resign, saying the onetime rising star “acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable.”
Florida Republican Matt Gaetz had a different take, addressing the underreported ethical challenges posed by the malicious use of new and evolving technology.
Gaetz went so far as to denounce the House Ethics investigation into Hill, proclaiming, “Who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text?”
This is just absurd. The only person who seems to have a gripe is @RepKatieHill’s soon-to-be ex.
Who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text?
Katie isn’t being investigated by Ethics or maligned because she hurt anyone – it is because she is different. https://t.co/Czrc2k8z8X
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) October 24, 2019
Another troubling issue deals with the abuse of power. Hill has faced virtually no scrutiny over the reality that as a Member of Congress, she exerted tremendous influence over the employees she reportedly slept with – especially the twentysomething campaign staffer.
As a millennial woman, Hill has not had to grapple with the same ethical questions men in her position have confronted. Media outlets refusing to acknowledge this threaten to undermine the #MeToo movement.
While the public wrestles with the unresolved questions of cyber exploitation and sensationalism in mass media, the fact remains if the ethics panel found proof of a relationship between Hill and her legislative director, it would violate House rules.
One fact has become clear in the aftermath of Hill’s downfall. Next year’s open primary will test the staying power of Democrats in one of California’s last remaining Republican bastions.