Yesterday Democratic congressman Eric Massa of upstate New York made a surprise announcement that he would not run for reelection because "he was hospitalized in December with a recurrence of cancer, and ... doctors have told him he would no longer be able to function at full speed all the time." Meanwhile, Politico was reporting that Massa was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for some kind of sexual inappropriateness involving a "junior male staffer." Massa vehemently denied this accusation, claiming that he was unaware of any such allegations and calling Politico's story "unsubstantiated without facts or backing," though he admitted that he does use some "salty language" around the office. Except that, later that night, Steny Hoyer, the House's No. 2 Democrat, decided he didn't want to be the Tom Reynolds to Massa's Mark Foley, and released a statement which, well, substantiates and backs everything Politico reported:
“The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa’s staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer’s staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer’s staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.”
In a nutshell, a Massa staffer complained to Hoyer, Hoyer told Massa's staff to report the allegations to the Ethics Committee right quick, and Massa's staff complied. It's pretty hard to see, then, how Massa could claim that he was unaware of any allegations, unless, somehow, nobody in his office told him that they were contacting the Ethics Committee about him.
Strangely enough, last night Massa chief of staff Joe Racalto told a Rochester reporter, "I can confirm my sitting staff has not contacted" the Ethics Committee. Since someone in Massa's office obviously did contact the Ethics Committee, perhaps the key is in the qualification "sitting staff." Does whomever reported Massa to the Ethics Committee no longer work for Massa? Or perhaps it was Massa himself who certainly wouldn't count as "staff" who contacted the Ethics Committee. In which case, Massa's earlier denials would take on even greater implausibility.
The sad thing about all of this is that we have no reason to believe that Massa's health isn't deteriorating as well. It even sounds as if he doesn't think he has a lot of time left. Racalto said that Massa's decision to slow things down involved a desire to see his two college-enrolled children graduate. And Massa himself said yesterday, "I will now enter the final phase of my life at a more controlled pace." Getting involved in a tawdry sex scandal, we can safely assume, would preferably not be part of the plan.
Hoyer knew of Massa allegations [Politico]
BLOG: The Massa Side of the Story [WHAM 13]
Massa Announces Retirement, Denies ‘Unsubstantiated’ Reports [Roll Call]