What is it about West Palm Beach that makes its congressmen prone to scandal? ABC News has the scoop:
West Palm Beach Congressman Tim Mahoney (D-FL), whose predecessor resigned in the wake of a sex scandal, agreed to a $121,000 payment to a former mistress who worked on his staff and was threatening to sue him, according to current and former members of his staff who have been briefed on the settlement, which involved Mahoney and his campaign committee.
Mahoney, who is married, also promised the woman, Patricia Allen, a $50,000 a year job for two years at the agency that handles his campaign advertising, the staffers said.
A Mahoney spokesperson would not answer questions about the alleged affair or the settlement, but said Allen resigned of her own accord and “has not received any special payment from campaign funds.”
Senior Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), the chair of the Democratic Caucus, have been working with Mahoney to keep the matter from hurting his re-election campaign, the Mahoney staffers said.
Mahoney was elected two years ago following the abrupt resignation of his disgraced predecessor, Republican Mark Foley, whose lewd internet messages to teenage boys and Congressional pages created a national outrage.
The affair between Mahoney and Allen began, according to the current and former staffers, in 2006 when Mahoney was campaigning for Congress against Foley, promising “a world that is safer, more moral.”
And the story gets better.
Friends of Allen told ABC News that Allen sought to break off the affair when she learned Mahoney was allegedly involved in other extra-marital relationships at the same time.
Her friends say she told them Mahoney threatened that ending the relationship could cost her the job.
“You work at my pleasure,” Congressman Mahoney told Allen on a January 20, 2008 telephone call that was recorded and played for Mahoney staffers. ABC News was provided a copy.
“If you do the job that I think you should do, you get to keep your job. Whenever I don’t feel like you’re doing your job, then you lose your job,” Mahoney can be heard telling Allen.
“And guess what? The only person that matters is guess who? Me. You understand that. That is how life really is. That is how it works,” Mahoney says on the call.
“You’re fired,” Mahoney tells her. “Do you hear me? Don’t tell me whether it’s correct or not.”
Allen says, “Tell me why else I’m fired.”
“There is no why else,” Mahoney responds.
Later, Allen says, “You’re firing me for other reasons. You don’t, you’re not man enough to say it. So why don’t you say it.”
All this from a guy who got elected because of his predecessor’s sex scandal? Yikes. This is manna from heaven for his opponent, who will in all likelihood hammer him upside the head with it for the next three weeks. It’s got Clinton-esque elements: adultery, use of taxpayer money, and litigation.
Keep an eye on this race to see if it gets competitive. It was a Republican district that switched in 2006 in disgust over the Foley scandal, so it could conceivably switch back. An incumbent’s first reelection campaign is usually the most difficult, and it would be a sweet symbolic victory for the Florida GOP if they could reclaim this seat and oust Mahoney because of a sex scandal, even if it isn’t anywhere near as toxic as the one that brought down Foley.