A sexual misconduct investigation of Pennsylvania Republican congressional hopeful Marty Nothstein has been closed with, “no evidence of wrongdoing,” but not before inflicting potentially devastating damage, his campaign announced Friday.
“This was a politically timed smear orchestrated by people who placed winning above fair play and destruction of decency,” Nothstein said at a press conference, according to a transcript provided to Roll call.
The campaign also provided an email from US Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit agency authorized by Congress that focuses on preventing abuse in U.S. sports, stating that it had completed its inquiry and closed its investigation.
The episode, involving a 20-year-old allegation, attracted media interest as far away as Taiwan since it was first reported last week, partly because of Nothstein’s prominent profile as a former Olympic gold medalist and local business figure. He is running a hotly contested race in Pennsylvania’s new 7th district.
Alluding to that coverage, Nothstein lashed out at The Allentown Morning Call, the local newspaper that first raised questions about his past in a story published after a three-month-investigation.
He also faulted the US Center for SafeSport and his employer, the Lehigh Valley Velodrome, which put him on unpaid leave in February. The Velodrome is a professional bicycle racing center.
Nothstein said he offered to show reporters at the Morning Call affidavits from his alleged accusers that “proved my innocence,” but the newspaper “refused.”
“This entire episode is a clear example of why good people don’t seek elected office,” he said at the press conference, according to the transcript. “It is evidence of why people hold such skepticism about elected officials and our local newspaper.”
His campaign said at least three other media outlets opted not to run stories after learning the county district attorney’s office had investigated and found the allegation without merit, a detail that was included in the Allentown Morning Call’s report. That story noted the reporters could not determine whether the district attorney and US Safe Sport had investigated the same allegation.
Representatives of the newspaper, US Safe Sport, and the Velodrome did not immediately return requests for comment.
Dennis Roddy, Nothstein’s spokesman and a consultant for Cold Spark Media, said it will be difficult for the campaign to regain its footing.
“All it takes is something like this to cause funders to go someplace else,” Roddy said. “He’s been vandalized.”
The specific charge was unclear but dated to around 2000, the year Nothstein won gold at the Sydney Olympics. A USA Cycling official received the complaint about Nothstein in late October, shortly after he launched his run for Congress.
Nothstein, a Lehigh County commissioner, said SafeSport ignored his requests to be interviewed so the investigation can come to an end.
Nothstein is set for a November face-off against former Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild, who has been endorsed by EMILY’s List.
He noted at the press conference that Wild has been “quick to capitalize” on the situation and quoted a statement Wild made last week, calling the allegations “serious” and calling for a full airing of the facts.
The race in Pennsylvania’s 7th District is expected to be hotly contested, especially after the state Supreme Court redrew the congressional lines earlier this year, ruling that the existing map represented an illegal partisan gerrymander.
The new 7th District is a successor to the old 15th District, previously represented by GOP Rep. Charlie Dent until he resigned in May. Under the new map, the seat shifted from one that President Donald Trump carried by 8 points in 2016 to one that would have backed Hillary Clinton by 1 point.