October 25, 2019 at 8:19 am PDT | by Chris Johnson
Katie Hill admits to ‘inappropriate’ relationship with campaign staffer

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), the only out bisexual in the U.S. House, is in the middle of increasingly growing scandal in which she has now admitted she had an “inappropriate” relationship with her campaign staffer before she took office.

Hill issued the statement to media outlets late Wednesday, asserting she “became involved in a relationship” with someone on her campaign as her “abusive marriage” was coming to an end.

“I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment,” Hill said. “For that I apologize. I wish nothing but the best for her and hope everyone respects her privacy in this difficult time.”

The conservative outlet RedState initially reported Hill was involved in a “throuple” relationship with her husband and the unnamed female campaign staffer over the course of the 2018 congressional election. The media outlet published a redacted nude photo of Hill combing the staffer’s hair.

“I am going through a divorce from an abusive husband who seems determined to try to humiliate me,” Hill said after the photo was published. “I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain.” 

“Revenge porn” is illegal in California. Hill has said she’s notified Capitol Hill police about the publication by “Republican operatives” of the compromising photos.

But there’s another allegation of an improper relationship, also first reported by RedState, that is causing Hill trouble. Texts reportedly between Hill’s husband and a friend reveal he was aware Hill was involved in an affair with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, as the two were proceeding to divorce.

The House Ethics Committee announced Wednesday it was reviewing whether Hill has been engaged in a relationship with Kelly. A sexual relationship between a House member and a member of their legislative staff would violate House rules. Hill has denied that relationship.

Hill in her statement emphasized she’s the victim of an abusive marriage and many women can relate to that experience.

“This coordinated effort to try to destroy me and the people close to me is despicable and will not succeed,” Hill said. “I, like many women who have faced attacks like this before, am stronger than those who want me to be afraid.” 

Things have gone from bad to worse for Hill as the week progressed. The Daily Mail, a conservative U.K.-based outlet, published another redacted nude photo of Hill smoking a bong. (UPDATE: Attorneys for Hill have threatened legal action against the Daily Mail over publication of the photos, according to Politico.)

Hill has been outspoken on LGBT rights over the course of her campaign and as a member of Congress. She has championed legislation barring use of Medicaid funds for conversion therapy and co-sponsored a resolution condemning Housing & Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson as transphobic.

When the Equality Act came to a vote on the House floor in May, Hill led the Democratic opposition to a motion to recommit that would have undermined the bill. The California Democrat declared to her Republican colleagues, despite their opposition to trans rights, they have met transgender people before.

Robyn Ochs, a bisexual activist, told Blade she doesn’t “know what are the actual facts,” but fears the situation will lead to reporting about bisexuality and polyamory in a negative way when it should be “a story about a legislator who had an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer.”

“It is a dynamic of oppression that any action committed by any member of a stigmatized group that conforms to stereotypes of that group will be seen as reflective of the entire group,” Ochs said.

Hill also has a prominent place as vice chair of the House Oversight Committee. Critics have charged Hill’s membership of this committee, which is currently conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, could leave her open to blackmail.

The Los Angeles Blade has placed a request in with the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorses LGBT candidates and endorsed Hill in 2018, to seek comment on whether the organization will endorse her again.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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