WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House Ethics Committee on 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.
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.
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.
On Wednesday, Hill confirmed that she had an affair with a campaign staffer — a separate relationship and not the focus of the Ethics panel.
"During the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage, I became involved in a relationship with someone on my campaign. I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment," Hill wrote in a statement sent to supporters Wednesday obtained by The Associated Press. "For that I apologize. I wish nothing but the best for her and hope everyone respects her privacy in this difficult time."
Hill, who identifies as bisexual and is going through a divorce, said her husband "seems determined to try to humiliate me. I am disgusted that my opponents would seek to exploit such a private matter for political gain."
Her husband's lawyer did not return an email and phone call seeking comment.