The House Ethics committee has opened an investigation into the behavior of first-term Nevada Democrat Rep. Ruben Kihuen. Two women have made allegations of sexual harassment by Kihuen prior to his election to Congress last year. Politico reports:
Reps. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), chairwoman and ranking member of the Ethics Committee, said in a statement that the secretive panel had begun a probe into Kihuen on its own authority, as is allowed under House rules.
“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Ruben Kihuen may have engaged in sexual harassment,” Brooks and Deutch said in their statement. “The Committee … has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.”
The story notes that the Ethics Committee has traditionally avoided investigating incidents prior to being sworn into Congress. Kihuen has denied the allegations and says he intends to “fully cooperate” with the investigation.
Earlier this month, Rep. Ruben Kihuen was accused of repeatedly propositioning a 25-year-old campaign staffer who was identified as Samantha. Samantha quit the campaign and went to the DCCC with her allegation during the primaries. They passed a message back to Kihuen’s campaign saying they had received a complaint about his behavior but apparently, nothing else happened. Kihuen went on to win the election.
Hours after Buzzfeed published the allegation on Dec. 1, Rep. Nancy Pelosi called Samantha’s account “convincing” and called for Kihuen’s resignation. This Wednesday a second accuser, a lobbyist in Nevada, came forward and alleged Kihuen had made similar persistent, unwanted advances toward her. From the Nevada Independent:
The woman, who requested anonymity because of concerns about being identified and the possible consequences in Nevada’s small political world, says that Kihuen touched her thighs or buttocks on three separate occasions without her consent. She also showed the Independent hundreds of suggestive text messages she received from Kihuen — including invitations to come sit on his lap in the middle of a committee hearing and repeated requests to spend the night at her place — over the course of the 2015 legislative session.
Once, he texted her to ask, “What color are your panties?” When she wouldn’t tell him, he said it “Makes me sad ” and that “My day can’t go on without knowing.”
When the Independent contacted Kihuen with a list of detailed questions based on the text messages, he issued a statement insinuating he had a dating relationship with the lobbyist in question, something she categorically denies:
“During my ten years in the Legislature, I dated several different women. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t discuss my communications or any other details of those relationships,” Kihuen said in the statement.
The woman told the Independent that she never dated Kihuen. In text messages, the woman repeatedly denied his requests to come over or otherwise spend time alone together and generally attempted to parry his advances.
“I never went over to his house. I never kissed him. I don’t know what his definition of dating is, but usually dating is a mutual decision between two people to do things alone, which I never, ever did with him,” she said.
Confronted with this response from the accuser, Kihuen’s office had no response.
Given that the 2nd accuser seems to have copies of all of the Kihuen’s text messages, which could conceivably be verified, how long is he going to keep this up? Doesn’t he realize he’s messing up the Democrats’ messaging on sexual harassment at a time when they’re trying to turn the issue back on President Trump? What will Pelosi do if he simply refuses to resign, as seems to be the case now? Whatever precedent is set here is going to matter because you can be Rep. Kihuen won’t be the last Democrat facing such accusations.