WEST PALM BEACH — Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney, facing accusations he paid a former aide to keep her quiet about their affair, admitted Tuesday he caused "embarrassment and heartache" to his family but denied doing anything illegal.
Mahoney did not directly address the purported tryst during a news conference, but instead issued a statement taking "full responsibility for my actions and the pain I have caused my wife, Terry, and my daughter, Bailey."
"No marriage is perfect," Mahoney said, "but our private life is our private life."
He said he never misused campaign funds and was confident he will be cleared of wrongdoing.
"I have not violated my oath of office, nor have I violated any laws," Mahoney said. He did not answer questions.
The statement came one day after ABC News reported that Mahoney, 52, had an affair with an aide and then paid her $121,000 to keep her quiet and avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit. After the report, Mahoney called for an investigation into his own conduct by the House Ethics Committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called for an inquiry.
Mahoney won the seat after Republican Rep. Mark Foley resigned when it was revealed he sent lurid Internet messages to male teenage pages who had worked on Capitol Hill. Foley was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by state and federal authorities.
Mahoney, seeking re-election, faces former Army officer Tom Rooney, a lawyer whose family owns the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We're pleased that an ethics investigation has been called for but quite frankly, we're not going to know the answers in three weeks unless congressman Mahoney literally sits down … and answers some questions," said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Cole said he was concerned Mahoney may have used money from his campaign to pay off the mistress, which would be illegal.
ABC, citing unnamed current and former Mahoney staff members, said the congressman began his affair with Patricia Allen, 50, in 2006 while he was campaigning for Congress. Allen has not returned telephone calls from the Associated Press.
In addition to the cash payment, ABC News reported that Mahoney promised the former aide a $50,000-a-year job for two years at the agency that handled his campaign advertising.
That company, Fletcher Rowley Chao Riddle Inc. of Nashville, withdrew from Mahoney's campaign Monday. The firm denied knowing anything about a settlement with Allen.