Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney, facing accusations he paid a former aide to keep her quiet about an affair, admitted Tuesday he caused "embarrassment and heartache" to his family but denied doing anything illegal.
Mahoney did not directly address the purported tryst during a news conference, but instead issued a statement taking "full responsibility for my actions and the pain I have caused my wife Terry and my daughter Bailey."
"No marriage is perfect," Mahoney said, "but our private life is our private life."
He said he never misused campaign funds and was confident he will be cleared of wrongdoing.
"I have not violated my oath of office, nor have I violated any laws," Mahoney said in the statement. He did not answer questions.
Mahoney faces tough re-election bidThe statement came one day after ABC News reported that Mahoney, 52, had an affair with an aide and then paid her $121,000 to keep her quiet and avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit. After the report, Mahoney called for an investigation into his own conduct by the House Ethics Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called for an inquiry.
Mahoney won the seat after former Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Foley resigned when it was revealed he sent lurid Internet messages to male teenage pages who had worked on Capitol Hill. Foley was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by state and federal authorities.
Republicans seized on the scandal. The seat is considered to be one of the more competitive House races, and Mahoney already had a tough challenge in a district that has traditionally leaned slightly Republican. He faces former Army officer Tom Rooney, a lawyer whose family owns the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We're pleased that an ethics investigation has been called for but quite frankly, we're not going to know the answers in three weeks unless Congressman Mahoney literally sits down ... and answers some questions," said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Cole said he was concerned Mahoney may have used money from his campaign account to pay off the mistress, which could be illegal.
"The facts should come out," Rooney said at the news conference with Cole.
Mahoney campaigned on family values
ABC, citing unnamed current and former Mahoney staff members, said the congressman began his affair with Patricia Allen, 50, in 2006 while he was campaigning for Congress, promising to return morals and family values to Washington. Allen has not returned repeated telephone calls from The Associated Press.
In addition to the cash payment, ABC News reported, Mahoney promised the former aide a $50,000-a-year job for two years at the agency that handled his campaign advertising.
That company, Nashville, Tenn.-based Fletcher Rowley Chao Riddle Inc., resigned from Mahoney's campaign Monday. The company's chief executive said the firm knew nothing about a settlement with Allen.