This is not how Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) hoped her freshman year was going to go.
The 32-year-old flipped a red district to get elected to Congress in 2018, and was named vice-chair of the powerful Oversight Committee, the public face of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Now she's fighting a formal ethics investigation into allegations she had an affair with a subordinate staffer, a violation of House rules — an allegation she denies, and which there is no public evidence to support.
On Wednesday, leaders of the House Ethics Committee said they’re opening an investigation into the allegation that Hill engaged in an improper sexual relationship with her legislative director, Graham Kelly.
House ethics rules implemented last year ban members of Congress from engaging in sexual relationships with employees. If the ethics committee finds that a member violated those rules, punishment could include removing that member of their committee leadership titles.
“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 on Wednesday.
In a letter she sent to constituents this week, Hill denied having a sexual relationship with Kelly.
"I am saddened that the deeply personal matter of my divorce has been brought into public view, even the false allegations of a relationship with my congressional staffer, which I have publicly denied, and I am fully and proactively cooperating with the Ethics Committee," she wrote.
A spokesperson for Hill did not immediately respond to VICE News’s request for comment.
Last week, the conservative blog RedState published the allegations that Hill had a sexual relationship with Kelly. Red State also alleged that Hill was involved with a female member of her campaign staff, and published nude photos of Hill with that staff member.
In statements to several news outlets, Hill strongly implied that her husband, who she is in the process of divorcing, leaked the photos.
“The truth is, distributing intimate photos with the intent to publish them is a crime, and the perpetrator should be punished to the full extent of the law,” Hill said on Wednesday, adding that her estranged husband, Kenny Heslep, “seems determined to try to humiliate me.”
It is illegal in 46 states and in D.C. to distribute “revenge porn,” or intimate photos shared without the subjects’ consent. Hill said she contacted the U.S. Capitol Police about the photos.
Hill has admitted that she had a relationship with a female staff member who worked on her election campaign, but said in her letter to constituents this week that the relationship was “inappropriate.”
"During the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign," Hill said in the letter to her constituents on Wednesday.
"I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment. For that I apologize. I wish nothing but the best for her and hope everyone respects her privacy in this difficult time," she continued.
Cover: U.S. Representative Katie Hill (D-CA) speaking at the Ignite Young Women Run D.C. Conference in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)