Treat equally all accused lawmakers
The resignation of U.S. Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., is being questioned by some observers who say she is being held to a higher standard than male members of Congress accused of wrongdoing.
It is not dodging the issue to point out the answer to that is no. Hill resigned her position. She was not removed from it or even disciplined by the House of Representatives.
Hill resigned after her sexual relationship with a campaign aide was revealed by the British press. Explicit photographs showing Hill and the female aide were published. Hill said she stepped down because she was “fearful of what might come next.” Noting she is involved in an unpleasant divorce, she blamed her husband for revealing the relationship.
“Some of her behavior, if a man did it, we would say it was wrong and inappropriate. But she is being held to a different standard,” Kelly Dittmar, of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told The Associated Press.
Whether Hill is discriminated against by the public — particularly her constituents — because she is a woman is one thing. Congress has no control over that.
It is fair to ask how she would have been treated had she remained in the House. It is known that an ethics investigation had been launched into her behavior, including allegations she broke House rules by being involved with a male aide. Hill denies that.
But, upon her resignation, the ethics probe was dropped.
From time to time — seemingly on a regular basis — other members of Congress are accused of misbehavior ranging from misuse of campaign funds to sexual improprieties. Another Californian, Republican U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, is accused now of mixing the two by using campaign money to cover romantic flings with congressional aides and lobbyists.
An investigation into that ought to be pursued vigorously and swiftly. If Hunter is guilty as accused, he should be removed from Congress.
Would Hill have been discriminated against had she remained in Congress? We will never know. What we do need to know, if we Americans are to have any faith in government, is that any lawmaker accused of wrongdoing — regardless of that person’s gender, party affiliation, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation or political connections — will be held accountable.
The sad truth is that the state of our politics and culture today requires us to wonder about that.