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Ethics Panel to Investigate Mahoney, Sort Of

The House ethics committee intends to review the Mahoney case, but it is unclear at present what that means. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Five days after the story first broke that Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) allegedly paid off his former mistress -- and former staffer -- to keep her quiet, the House ethics committee has sprung into action. Only it's not exactly clear what the panel intends to do.

This afternoon, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct put out this statement: "The Committee is aware of media reports alleging that Representative Tim Mahoney engaged in improper conduct related to personal relationships he may have had with one or more individuals. We are reviewing this matter in accordance with Committee Rules and intend to interview Representative Mahoney and other parties who may have information about this matter."

Now, sometimes the ethics panel starts investigations after an official complaint is filed by a member, and occasionally it launches a probe on its own. What it doesn't normally do is this -- announce that it is "reviewing" a topic without actually forming an investigative subcommittee. The statement also sparks more questions: Who exactly is the committee going to interview? Will it seek testimony from Democratic leaders?

This last issue is important, because Reps. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the current and former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, have both acknowledged talking to Mahoney about the allegations before the story broke. Republicans have been calling loudly for those two leaders and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to tell "what they knew and when they knew it," just as Republican leaders did during the scandal surrounding the behavior of Rep. Mark Foley's (R-Fla.) -- Mahoney's predecessor in Florida's 16th district -- with House pages in the last Congress.

Pelosi has called for an ethics investigation, so maybe the panel is simply responding to the fact that leaders of both parties have demanded a probe. But with Congress out of session and the committee making such an unusual public statement, it's anybody's guess at this point what the panel will actually accomplish before Election Day. After that, Mahoney may well be out of office and beyond the committee's grasp.

UPDATE 6:30 p.m. ET:
Mahoney gave an interview today to the Associated Press, during which he admitted to "multiple" extramarital affairs, but said he broke no laws.

Mahoney acknowledged that he began an affair with Patricia Allen during his 2006 campaign. She went on to work for his congressional office, then his campaign. He eventually fired her -- he says over "performance issues" -- and she threatened to sue him for sexual harassment. Mahoney paid her off, though he contends that all the money came from his personal account, not his campaign or congressional budgets.

Mahoney also admitted to an affair with an official in Martin County, which was the beneficiary of hurricane relief funding from FEMA for which he lobbied.

As for his family, Mahoney told the AP: ""I do feel like I let them down. I just hope that they can understand I'm a human being. I never presented myself as being perfect."

By Ben Pershing  |  October 17, 2008; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders , Ethics and Rules  
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It is very interesting that during the Foley scandal, we heard about his improper behavior 24/7 on the major TV networks and Pelosi and her comrades, decrying the Republican "culture of corruption" now with the democrats in charge and the media in their pocket, we hear very little about Mahoney, except he "broke no laws.

Posted by: Cherokee85 | October 18, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Foley was the poster boy for a much larger set of issues in 2006. At that time, we had Tom DeLay, Phil Gramm, Duke Cunningham, Ted Stevens, and a cast of hundreds, not all Republican, to address. Incidentally, Foley was found not to have broken the law, and most of the really egregiously corrupt Republicans just retired with their "winnings," rather than face the voters again.

There's also the "bigger fish to fry" perspective, with the financial system in utter shambles as a direct result of willful neglect of duty by the Bush administration. In 2006, we had the same problems we have now, but the Republican-dominated government was still deep in denial.

Posted by: Ken, Dallas, TX | October 20, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.
$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$540 billion: Annual U.S. Defense Budget."

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

"The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.
$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$540 billion: Annual U.S. Defense Budget."

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

The other difference between Foley's transgressions and Mahoney's is that Foley was making advances on children. He was the face of the anti-child predator laws being considered in congress. Both of these individuals are examples of hypocrosy, but the difference is that Foley's hypocrosy was a blatant contradiction of what fought for in congress. Mahoney betrayed his family and let down his constituency, but ultimately, he claims to have engaged in legal behavior with consenting adults. Foley, not so much.

Posted by: David from Seattle | October 22, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

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