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Rep. Katie Hill’s Resignation Ignites Debates Over Double Standards and Revenge Porn

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  • U.S. Representative Katie Hill (D-CA) announced her resignation on Oct. 27 after a right-wing political blog alleged she had engaged in two inappropriate relationships with staffers and leaked nude photos of her.
  • Hill publicly apologized for the relationships and has vowed to fight revenge porn following her resignation.
  • The incident has prompted a national debate over how female politicians are treated in scandals involving inappropriate relationships and nude photo leaks in comparison to men.
  • While some have called Hill a victim of revenge porn, others have criticized her for allowing the photos to be taken in the first place.

Inappropriate Relationship Allegations and Nude Photos

U.S. Representative Katie Hill’s resignation, stained by allegations of two inappropriate relationships with staffers and nude photo leaks, has sparked a national debate over how to treat sexual misconduct allegations against female politicians.

Hill, a 32-year-old Democrat representing California’s 25th district, defeated incumbent Republican Steve Knight in the 2018 midterms to secure her first term in office. Prior to Hill, Republicans had held the seat since 1993.

On Oct. 27, however, Hill announced she would be ending her term earlier than expected after a right-wing political blog detailed the potential misconduct allegations against her.

“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” she wrote. “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country.”

On Oct. 10, the blog accused her of having an affair with the legislative director of her congressional staff. Then on Oct. 18, the blog accused Hill of engaging in another inappropriate relationship, this one occurring before the first. According to the blog, Hill was involved in a three-way relationship between her husband and a female campaign staffer.

The second post also included private text messages and even nude photos of Hill. Although it did somewhat censor those photos, it still leaked them without Hill’s knowledge or consent. Since the leaks, Hill has implied that she thinks her husband might have supplied those photos to the blog.

By the time the second relationship with the legislative director was alleged to have occurred, Hill and her husband were estranged.

“This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” Hill said in her resignation letter.

“Having private photos of personal moments weaponized against me has been an appalling invasion of my privacy,” she continued before calling the leaking of her photos illegal.

Hill then went to the U.S. Capitol Police, which opened an investigation to find out who leaked the photos.

Under California and Washington D.C. law, cyber exploitation—more commonly known as revenge porn—is illegal. 

House Ethics Committee Investigation

On October 23rd, the House Ethics Committee announced it would also open an investigation, this time focused on whether or not Hill had that inappropriate relationship with her legislative director.

The investigation itself generated a fresh wave of headlines because of a new ethics rule passed in Congress last year to address sexual misconduct among lawmakers in the wake of the #MeToo era. If found to have engaged in such a relationship, Hill would be in direct violation of the rule, which prohibits members of Congress from engaging in sexual relationships with their aides.

Later that same day, Hill sent a letter to her constituents, admitting she had engaged in the “inappropriate relationship” with her female campaign staffer; however, she also noted that the relationship occurred before she became a Congresswoman. While not against the established ethics rules, advocates have still said such a relationship between a person in power and an employee is inappropriate.

Hill then denied having an inappropriate relationship with her legislative director and promised to cooperate with the ethics investigation.

“She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said of her resignation. “We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.”

Revenge Porn and Reaction

Much of the debate over the handling of Hill’s scandal has focused on the use of so-called revenge porn to justify and prove the existence of the allegations made against her. 

In a comment on Fox News’ The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said much of the story was exacerbated by the existence of the photos and that they were one of the main issues.

“Unfortunately, those pictures were leaked after an erotic adventure went awry,” he said. “I mean, everybody was having fun, and this when it breaks apart, that’s why you don’t take pictures! That’s the moral lesson here!”

The argument is similar to that actress Bella Thorne’s nude photo leak in June, where Whoopi Golberg criticized Thorne on The View for taking such photos in the first place. 

On the other side of things, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) told BuzzFeed News that Hill is the victim of a double standard for female politicians.

“It was clearly meant to embarrass her,” Harris said of Hill. “There’s so much that people do about women and their sexuality that’s about shaming them.”

Double Standard for Women in Politics

Harris’ comments struck another aspect of the debate: a double standard for women in politics. While Hill is being investigated for potentially breaking ethics rules, a very serious matter, the information came about by means of nude photos and private messages.

According to the New York Times, “[Hill’s] resignation highlights another generational issue: the new kinds of internet exposure that lawyers and activists say could have an impact on a whole class of rising politicians.”

Yesterday, Hill announced her vow to fight revenge porn following her resignation. 

“I will not allow my experience to scare off young women or girls from running for office. For the sake of all of us, we cannot let that happen,” she said. “I’m hurt. I’m angry. The path that I saw so clearly for myself is no longer there.”

“I never claim to be perfect,” she said, “but I never thought my imperfections would be weaponized and used to try to destroy me the community I have loved for my entire life.”  

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Vox) (USA Today)

Politics

Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena

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The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.


Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.

The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.

In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.

Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.

Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee. 

That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.

After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.

Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.

Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts

The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.

It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same. 

The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively —  are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.

Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.

As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.  

Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)

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Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December

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The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.


Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily

The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.

The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.

After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.

The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday. 

The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.

“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.

The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession. 

Major Hurdles Remain

While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.

Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain. 

Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.

Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.

Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.

Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.

Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.

In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul. 

As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported. 

It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent

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California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 


CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.

Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.

Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.

“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.

Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.

Others May Follow

The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.

Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.

“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.

“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”

The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Los Angeles Times) (The Sacramento Bee)

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