weather icon Clear

Pressure for Kihuen to resign mounts after Conyers steps down

Updated December 5, 2017 - 6:42 pm

WASHINGTON — Pressure mounted Tuesday on Democrat Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada to step down over allegations of sexual harassment following the resignation of a more senior colleague who succumbed to calls by party leaders to relinquish his seat for similar activity.

The congressional office was in turmoil as some staff members threatened to quit, a Democrat close to the lawmaker said, and the chief of staff sent out a memo obtained by Politico that sought jobs for employees who wanted to leave.

The developments came as Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the longest-serving member of the House, told a Detroit radio station that he would resign on Tuesday. He endorsed his son for the seat.

Conyers faced an Ethics Committee investigation into multiple allegations that he harassed women who worked on his staff.

Kihuen, a freshman, was accused by a finance employee on his congressional campaign in Nevada of making unwanted advances and inappropriately touching her on at least two occasions.

The allegations against Kihuen were first reported by BuzzFeed last Friday.

Reaction to the allegation against Kihuen was swift, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. Ben Lujan, D-N.M., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Nevada Democrats calling for Kihuen’s immediate resignation.

Kihuen, in a statement Friday, apologized to the former campaign staffer, but said he did not recollect the incidents the way that she had portrayed them.

The lawmaker, who represents North Las Vegas, Mesquite and Pahrump, could not be reached by telephone on Tuesday. He has not returned multiple requests for comment.

Kihuen claims party leaders knew

However, Kihuen told ABC News on Tuesday that he would not resign from his seat. He also said party leaders knew last year about the former campaign staffer’s allegations of misconduct but stood by his campaign nonetheless. Kihuen questioned why they are calling for his resignation now, more than a year later.

“I do find it interesting that the DCCC, Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman Ben Ray Lujan — they knew about these allegations last year,” Kihuen told ABC. “They looked into them. They didn’t find anything, and they continued investing millions of dollars in my campaign. They went out there and campaigned for me.”

But Pelosi and Lujan both denied knowing about the allegations against Kihuen before BuzzFeed published its report, ABC News reported.

“Sadly, this is not the case. Leader Pelosi first learned of these allegations from BuzzFeed last week,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, told ABC.

“Congressman Kihuen’s statement is not true,” Meredith Kelly, DCCC communications director, said.

Over the weekend, after speaking with Pelosi, Kihuen decided not to step down from Congress, according a Democratic operative familiar with the congressman’s decision.

Late Monday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called an emergency meeting to discuss Kihuen’s decision. The caucus was divided on whether to support a call for his resignation, according to the Democrat familiar with the ongoing events.

On Tuesday in Las Vegas, Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, said at a news conference that he knew of the Kihuen allegations only through media reports, but said if accusations against elected officials are confirmed “there should be consequences.”

“With regard to the congressman, only he knows. And he’s somebody who’s going to have to answer that question. And if indeed it’s true, then he should step down,” Sandoval said.

Turmoil among congressional staff

Also on Tuesday, Kihuen staff members threatened to quit, the Democratic operative said.

And Kihuen’s chief of staff, Peter Koltac, sent a note to other Democratic congressional offices seeking positions for staff members who wanted to leave, according to Politico. At least one staff member has resigned.

While Conyers was under investigation by the Ethics Committee, it was unknown whether a complaint has been filed with the secretive panel over the allegations against Kihuen.

A spokesman for the committee replied “no comment” when asked if a complaint was filed.

If a complaint is made, historically the chairman and ranking member would have to agree to investigate the allegation. The committee would have 90 days to look into the matter and determine if further action is warranted.

The committee, in the past, has investigated incidents that have occurred during a congressional campaign, or before a lawmaker took office.

The committee announced Nov. 21 that it was reviewing allegations surrounding Conyers.

On Monday, yet another allegation was lodged against the 88-year-old House member, when a woman who said she worked for him for more than a decade, Elisa Grubbs, said he slid his hand up her skirt and rubbed her thighs while she was sitting next to him in church.

Grubbs also said she repeatedly saw Conyers touching and stroking the legs and buttocks of other female staffers. Such behavior “was a regular part of life while working in the office of Rep. Conyers,” she said.

Grubbs is the cousin of another accuser, Marion Brown, who reached a confidential, taxpayer-funded settlement of more than $27,000 over allegations that Conyers sexually harassed her. That settlement came to light in mid-November, setting off the cascade of allegations against the congressman.

At least two other women who worked for him have accused him of sexual misconduct.

A lawyer for Conyers previously denied the allegations and said the congressman would fight to clear his name. That changed Tuesday when Conyers announced his resignation during an interview on a radio show. He defiantly said his legacy would not be diminished by “what we’re going through now.”

Conyers is currently hospitalized in Detroit where he is being treated for stress.

Kihuen and Conyers are just two of member of Congress who have been accused of improprieties in a growing social movement to stop harassment.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been accused by several women of inappropriate behavior.

Last week it was disclosed that taxpayers paid for an $84,000 settlement with a former spokeswoman for Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who accused him of sexual harassment.

Sexual impropriety also underlies a heated Senate campaign in Alabama where Roy Moore, a Republican, has been accused of sexual misconduct against teen-aged girls decades ago.

President Donald Trump, also accused of sexual misbehavior in the past, has endorsed Moore and encouraged him to continue his campaign, despite calls from leading Senate Republicans for Moore to end his candidacy in the special election to be held next week.

Review-Journal staff writer Colton Lochhead and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.