House

Ethics Committee investigating claims against Kihuen

Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee has launched a probe into the sexual misconduct charges swirling around Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), the panel announced Friday, marking the latest escalation in the wave of harassment charges that have engulfed Capitol Hill in recent weeks.

Kihuen, a 37-year-old freshman once seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, has been under fire since BuzzFeed reported allegations that he’d made unwanted sexual advances toward a former campaign staffer.

More recently, a second accuser has emerged, contending Kihuen, as a Nevada state senator, repeatedly touched her inappropriately and sent her sexually charged text messages over a course of years, while she was lobbying on behalf of legislation before the body — allegations reported Wednesday by The Nevada Independent

Kihuen has remained defiant, denying the initial charges from his former aide while suggesting the second accuser was a woman he’d dated — a contention the accuser rejected, according to the Independent.

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The allegations follow a string of similar cases to hit Congress in recent weeks, leading to the hasty resignation of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), who settled an $84,000 taxpayer-funded harassment case involving a former staffer in 2014, announced this week that he won’t seek reelection.

The response from Democratic leaders has been mixed, highlighting the lack of clear guidelines surrounding the reporting and settlement of sexual harassment cases on Capitol Hill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was criticized for an initially soft response to the Conyers allegations, quickly called for Kihuen to resign — a position she reiterated Thursday.

“He wants to go through the ethics process? That’s his right to do,” she said, adding that she had no plans to strip Kihuen of committee assignments in the meantime.

Yet other Democratic leaders haven’t gone as far, emphasizing Kihuen’s right to defend himself before the Ethics panel. 

“I find the new allegation — as well as the one previously reported — very serious and credible,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said Thursday in response to the second set of allegations. 

“As I’ve said before, if the allegations are true, he should resign. I believe the Ethics Committee ought to investigate these allegations immediately, but it is clear that we need a new process that can swiftly and transparently resolve issues like this and encourage victims to come forward and protect them while allowing the accused to make their case.”

Tags Al Franken Blake Farenthold John Conyers Nancy Pelosi Ruben Kihuen Sexual harassment Sexual misconduct Steny Hoyer Trent Franks United States House Committee on Ethics
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