The head of the National Republican Congressional Committee accused Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney of trying to cover up an affair and stonewalling to “run out the clock without being accountable to voters” before Election Day.
Chairman Tom Cole made the statement Tuesday after the Florida congressman refused to answer questions at his own news conference earlier in the day responding to reports that he paid a former aide $121,000 to buy her silence about the alleged affair.
Mahoney had acknowledged that he had caused "embarrassment and heartache" to his family but denied accusations of hush money. The 52-year-old congressman did not address the alleged tryst but denied that he did anything illegal.
Mahoney, his wife by his side, said he took "full responsibility for my actions and the pain I have caused my wife, Terry, and my daughter Bailey. . . . No marriage is perfect, but our private life is our private life."
Mahoney had called Monday for a House ethics investigation into the allegations after ABC News broke the story. He expressed confidence then and Tuesday that he will be vindicated.
"I am confident that, when all the facts come to light, I will be completely vindicated," he said, adding that he would not let a "politically motivated story" stop his reelection bid.
ABC reported that Mahoney had an affair with an aide, Patricia Allen, 50, whom he later fired, and paid her $121,000 to keep her quiet and avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit. He allegedly began the affair in 2006 while he was campaigning for Congress, said ABC, citing unnamed current and former Mahoney staff members.
Mahoney had campaigned on a promise to return family values to Washington, to replace former U.S. Rep Mark Foley, a Republican who resigned after revelations that he sent lurid Web messages to teenage male pages. State and federal officials cleared Foley of criminal wrongdoing.
Mahoney is up for reelection in what many regard as one of the more competitive House races. He faces Tom Rooney, a lawyer and former Army officer whose family owns the Pittsburgh Steelers and a dog-racing track in West Palm Beach.
Republican Chairman Cole said both parties have let 16th Congressional District voters “down one too many times by both parties, and they deserve an open and swift account from Mr. Mahoney. While I respect his family’s privacy, there are too many unanswered questions about how Mr. Mahoney conducted himself in office. Hiding the truth three weeks before an election does a grave disservice to voters.”
ABC News also reported that Mahoney promised the former aide a $50,000-a-year job for two years at the agency that handled his campaign advertising. That Nashville, Tenn.-based company resigned from Mahoney's campaign Monday. The firm’s chief executive said the company knew nothing about such a settlement.
Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also had called for an investigation, Cole said, “It’s clear Speaker Pelosi would like to sweep this matter under the rug through a lengthy investigation, rather than shine the light of truth on the facts.”
News reports indicate that the Democratic congressional leaders knew something about Mahoney’s “inappropriate and potentially illegal behavior," Cole said, "which begs the question: What did the Democrat leadership know and when did they know it?”
Cole demanded answers to five questions:
Did Mayoney pay his former aide $121,000?
If so, did the money originate from his campaign account? If not, from where?
Is she telling the truth, saying that Mahoney arranged to get her a job with his media firm?
Why did he find it necessary to move her off the government payroll and pay her from his campaign account after affair rumors surfaced.
How long has the Democratic leadership known Mahoney paid off his mistress and what did they advise Mahoney to do when they learned of it?
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