WEST PALM BEACH — ABC News reported on its Web site Monday that Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney, a married congressman facing a Republican challenger in this election, agreed to pay $121,000 in March to a former mistress and staffer after being threatened with a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Mahoney then invited an ethics investigation of himself amid the reports that he had an affair and then paid the woman to keep her quiet.
While not directly addressing whether the allegations were true, Mahoney said in a brief release he was confident he'd be vindicated. Minutes later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called for an investigation.
Mahoney won the race 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 any criminal wrongdoing.
The network, citing unnamed current and former Mahoney staff members, said he began his affair with Patricia Allen, 50, in 2006 while he was campaigning for Congress, promising to return morals to Washington.
Telephone messages left by the Associated Press for Mahoney and his congressional and campaign staff members were not returned Monday.
A Mahoney representative told ABC that Allen resigned willingly and "has not received any special payment from campaign funds."
In addition to the cash payment, ABC News reported that Mahoney promised Allen a $50,000-a-year job for two years at the agency that handles his campaign advertising.
That company, Fletcher Rowley Chao Riddle Inc. of Nashville, left Mahoney's campaign later Monday.
"Tim Mahoney apparently included our company in a secret legal settlement without the knowledge of our firm. Our firm did not agree to any legal settlement," chief executive Bill Fletcher said in a release. "If these allegations are true, Tim Mahoney's actions are unacceptable and not in line with FRCR's business ethics."
Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, heard rumors about an affair in early 2007 and confronted Mahoney, a spokeswoman said Monday.
"Upon hearing a rumor, congressman Emanuel confronted congressman Mahoney, told him he was in public life and had a responsibility to act accordingly and appropriately, and urged him to do so," the spokeswoman said.
Friends of Allen's told ABC News that she wanted to end the affair, but Mahoney threatened to fire her is she did so.
"You work at my pleasure," Mahoney told Allen on a Jan. 20, 2008, recorded telephone call, a portion of which was provided to ABC.
"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.
"You're fired," he continued. "Do you hear me?"
Allen then asks why she is being fired, indicating there is another reason than her apparent inability to do her job.
"There is no why else," Mahoney responded.
"You're firing me for other reasons," Allen said on the call. "You don't, you're not man enough to say it. So why don't you say it."