Ethics panel opens investigation of Rep. Katie Hill

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee Wednesday opened an investigation into Rep. Katie Hill after a conservative website published unsubstantiated accusations that she had an improper relationship with a staffer.

The bipartisan leadership of the Ethics panel announced the probe of the freshman California Democrat, noting "public allegations" that Hill "may have engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual on her congressional staff."

The panel noted that it is casting no judgment on the validity of the charges, which were based in the report on anonymous sources.

In a statement Tuesday, Hill denied having had an affair with her legislative director. She asked U.S. Capitol Police for an investigation into intimate photos she said were posted online without her consent.

Lawmakers have come under intense criticism for being slow to update Capitol Hill's rules on sexual harassment but finally passed an ethics change last year that, among other steps, banned lawmakers from having sexual relationships with staff aides.

Hill identifies as bisexual and is going through a divorce.

"The fact is I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me. I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain," Hill said.