Politics

Ruben Kihuen Harassed Women, Ethics Committee Finds

Nevada Democrat had refused to resign after allegations surfaced in December

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., was the subject of a months-long House Ethics investigation.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Ruben Kihuen harassed women who worked with him and violated the House’s official code of conduct, according to a House Ethics Committee report released Thursday. 

“Kihuen made persistent and unwanted advances towards women who were required to interact with him as part of their professional responsibilities,” the report says. The advances included kissing, grabbing and comments about underwear.

The release comes after a nine-month inquiry by an investigative subcommittee empaneled in Dec. 2017. 

The Nevada Democrat refused to resign following allegations of harassment by women who worked for and with him, even after top Democrats called on him to step down. But Kihuen decided not to seek re-election, making the announcement a day after the Ethics Committee launched its investigation.

At the time, he disputed the allegations against him, but said they “would be a distraction from a fair and thorough discussion of the issues in a re-election campaign.” 

Three women testified before the investigative subcommittee that Kihuen made unwanted physical and verbal advances toward them between 2013 and 2017. The report details Kihuen’s actions toward a D.C. “firm employee,” a campaign staffer and a Nevada lobbyist.

The committee found that while serving as a member of the House, Kihuen repeatedly kissed the firm employee’s cheek, touched her shoulders and back and commented on her physique. He also inquired about her relationship status and asked if she lived alone. Kihuen insinuated that he would help the D.C. firm employee with her career in exchange for a romantic relationship, according to the Ethics report.

The campaign staffer testified that Kihuen made unwanted advances toward her by touching her thigh while they were driving back from a meeting and by grabbing the back of her thigh as she stood up to check her computer. She told the committee that Kihuen would tell her “you look really good,” and “I would take you out if you didn’t work for me,” by suggesting that the two of them should get a room as they arrived at a hotel for a meeting, and by asking her if she ever cheated on her boyfriend.

Rep. Kihuen's campaign staffer sent messages to friends about the candidate's behavior towards her. (House Ethics Committee)
Rep. Kihuen's campaign staffer sent messages to friends about the candidate's behavior towards her. 

The female lobbyist, who worked with Kihuen in Nevada between 2013 and 2015, testified that he slid his hand under her dress and onto her thigh, grabbed her buttocks, asked her to sit on his lap, inquired what color her panties were and suggested that she would look good naked. The report also says the lobbyist testified that he sent messages suggesting — through emojis — that they make a sex tape together.

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The subcommittee’s full report includes over 100 pages of text messages, chats and emails between Kihuen and the women, along with the women discussing Kihuen’s behavior with other people.

While the investigative subcommittee chose not to “address whether any of Representative Kihuen’s behavior prior to being sworn in as a Member of the House” fell within the panel’s jurisdiction, the full House Ethics Committee asserted in the report that it has jurisdiction over “misconduct relating to a successful campaign for election to the House.”

The full Ethics panel decided that Kihuen’s behavior toward the campaign staffer, coupled with his actions when he was serving in the House, warrants “reproval.”

Reproval by the Ethics Committee is “intended to be a clear public statement of rebuke of a Member’s conduct issued by a body of that Member’s peers acting … on behalf of the House of Representatives.”

House Rule XXIII, clauses 1 and 2, states that “a Member … of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House” and “shall adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House.”

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