Ethics panel investigating Rep. Hastings over relationship with staffer

Ethics panel investigating Rep. Hastings over relationship with staffer
© Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee revealed Thursday that it is investigating Rep. Alcee HastingsAlcee (Judge) Lamar HastingsNew Mexico Democrat Stansbury sworn into Haaland's old seat House Democrats unveil .9 billion bill to boost security after insurrection Carter sworn in as House member to replace Richmond, padding Democrats' majority MORE (D-Fla.) over whether his relationship with a member of his staff breaks House rules.

Hastings has admitted to being in a relationship with his aide, Patricia Williams, who serves as his deputy district director.

The committee is now investigating whether Hastings violated House rules with that relationship and if he received any improper gifts from Williams.

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The House last year adopted a rule preventing members of Congress from having a sexual relationship with a member of their staff. 

"The Committee is aware of public allegations arising out of Representative Alcee Hastings’ personal relationship with an individual employed in his congressional office," House Ethics Committee Chairman Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchOvernight Health Care — Presented by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing — FDA panel advises Moderna booster shot for high-risk people Congress comes to the aid of Libyan people, passing bill ordering probe into war crimes and torture Ocasio-Cortez explains 'present' vote on Iron Dome MORE (D-Fla.) and the panel's ranking Republican, Rep. Kenny MarchantKenny Ewell MarchantTexas House Democrat who fled state announces congressional bid Republican Van Duyne wins race for Texas House seat Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats MORE (Texas), said in a joint statement, without identifying the staffer.

The statement said that the committee had begun an investigation on May 14, but did not reveal it publicly until Thursday.

Hastings has dismissed ethical concerns about his relationship, telling The Palm Beach Post "it’s been looking like that for 25 years” according to a story published last month.

Williams previously served as counsel to Hastings when he was accused of accepting bribes as a federal judge in the 1980s. Hastings was later impeached.

Hastings's office didn't immediately return a request for comment.
 
Hastings is the third lawmaker this year to be accused of running afoul of the House rule barring sexual relationships with congressional aides or with staffers on the committees they serve on.
 
That rule was adopted last year in response to the "Me Too" movement.
 
Former Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillKatie Hill launches effort to protect Democratic majority in House Katie Hill says 'it would take a lot' to convince her to run again for House The tale of the last bipartisan unicorns MORE (D-Calif.) last month faced accusations that she had a sexual relationship with a member of her staff, though she has denied that. She admitted to a relationship with a campaign staffer, which would not break the House rule. She resigned last month. 
 
The House Ethics Committee has also announced that it is investigating whether Guam's delegate in Congress, Michael San Nicolas, engaged in a sexual relationship with his staffer and whether he improperly used campaign funds for personal use.
 
Hastings has drawn the scrutiny of the Ethics Committee before. 
 
A congressional staffer who worked for the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe filed a complaint against Hastings, who served as the commission's chairman, alleging that he made unwanted sexual advances.

The House Ethics Committee reviewed the matter, but ultimately cleared Hastings in 2014 after finding insufficient evidence. However, the committee did find that Hastings admitted to making lewd comments in front of the complainant that showed "poor judgment."