An ethics investigation has found that retiring U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada “made persistent and unwanted advances towards women” he worked with.
The freshman Democratic congressman announced he would retire after he was accused of sexual misconduct. The House Ethics Committee set up an investigative subcommittee in December, and the findings were released today.
Investigators met 11 times and interviewed a dozen witnesses, according to the report. The committee reprimanded Kihuen rather than seeking a formal sanction that would have required the House to act.
Two women who worked with Kihuen’s campaigns said they were subjected to “unwanted physical and verbal advances,” according to the report.
A lobbyist who worked with Kihuen said she experienced similar behavior, including Kihuen “sliding his hand under her dress and onto her thigh, grabbing her buttocks” and sending her messages asking her to sit on his lap and “through the use of emojis, that they make a sex tape together.”
BuzzFeed News first reported that Kihuen had been accused of sexual misconduct. Kihuen denied the accusations.
“Despite Representative Kihuen’s denials, each of the complainant’s allegations were supported by documentary evidence and some of the alleged incidents were corroborated by third party witnesses,” the ethics report says.
The report found Kihuen violated two clauses of the Code of Official Conduct.
“While members are free to pursue romantic and intimate relationships outside of the House, there is an inherent power imbalance when members romantically pursue individuals who are required to interact with members as part of their professional responsibilities,” investigators said in their report.
In a written response to the report to the investigative subcommittee, Kihuen “apologized to the complainants and acknowledged that his actions may have been perceived in ways other than what he intended,” the report said.
Kihuen said in a statement today that he apologizes to the women.
“After much reflection and introspection, I recognize that regardless of the fact that I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable or disrespected, what matters is how my actions were perceived by the women who came forward," Kihuen said.
"It saddens me greatly to think I made any woman feel that way due to my own immaturity and overconfidence," he said. "I extend my sincere apologies to each of these women. Though I do not agree with aspects of the report, I am thankful the committee afforded everyone an opportunity to be heard and appreciate the committee’s acknowledgment that I fully cooperated with the investigation.”
According to the report, “Service as an elected official involves power imbalances that members must be careful not to exploit. Indeed, each of the complainants had potential career opportunities affected by their efforts to avoid continued advances by Representative Kihuen.”