The House Committee on Ethics announced Thursday that Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fl.) , is under investigation for his "personal relationship with an individual employed in his congressional office."
What are the details?
Although the aide is not named in the committee's statement, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, "the case clearly refers to Patricia Williams," Rep. Hastings' longtime girlfriend who has worked in his office since 1993.
But the ties between Hastings and Williams go back even further, the Sun Sentinel noted, reporting that Williams "was the lawyer, since disbarred, who represented Hastings in the 1980's when he was tried and acquitted of accepting bribes as a federal judge. He was subsequently impeached and removed from the bench."
The Ethics Committee began its investigation into Hastings in May of this year, and is considering "whether Representative Hastings has received any improper gifts, including any forbearance, from the employee." Williams serves as Hastings' deputy director in his district office, and is the congressman's highest-paid employee. According to The Palm Beach Post, Williams has been paid more than "$3 million in taxpayer-funded salary" since working in her boyfriend's office.
Hastings has been open about the relationship, and the couple bought a $700,000 home together two years ago.
The 83-year-old Hastings — who serves as the House Rules Committee vice-chair — has brushed off ethics complaints about his relationship with Williams in the past, but a rule passed last year in response to the #MeToo movement has brought the case into the forefront.
Last month, separate investigations into two other House Democrats were launched by the Ethics Committee under the new rule that prohibits members from having sexual relationships with staffers. One of the Democrats being investigated, Rep. Katie Hill (Calif.), resigned after the accusations against her came to light.
This isn't the first time Hastings has run into trouble during his time in Congress. A former aide to Hastings, Winsome Packer, accused the Democrat of sexual harassment and after a long legal battle was eventually paid $220,000 in what The Washington Post called "one of the largest secret settlements paid out in recent years by the congressional Office of Compliance."