Republican Rep. Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania informed his colleagues Thursday that he will not seek re-election after news reports revealed he settled a sexual harassment claim with a former aide using tax payer dollars.
U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, offered this: "While I'm disappointed by the circumstances leading to Congressman Meehan's retirement, I thank him for his dedication to his district", Stivers wrote.
After filing a complaint previous year, the unnamed former aide reached a confidential agreement with Meehan's office, which granted her an undisclosed fee which would be paid from his congressional office fund.
But after the woman became involved in a serious relationship with someone outside the office previous year, Mr. Meehan professed his romantic desires for her - first in person, and then in a handwritten letter - and he grew hostile when she did not reciprocate, the people familiar with her time in the office said.
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After beginning a complaint process, the aide eventually left her job and later reached a confidential agreement with Meehan that involved the payment of an undisclosed amount, drawn from Meehan's congressional office fund.
Jim Lee says the race for Meehan's seat could be one of the most expensive races for this election season.
But he said in a letter sent to his campaign chairman on Thursday, he said that "recent events concerning my office and the settlement of certain harassment allegations have become a major distraction", according to Philadelphia Inquirer, which obtained a copy of the note. "I need to own it because it is my own conduct that fueled the matter".
Meehan, 62, is a four-term congressman and former US attorney in Philadelphia.
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Meehan, a four-term lawmaker, drew backlash Wednesday from comedian Stephen Colbert, among others, after he referred to his alleged victim as his "soulmate" in attempting to defend his actions.
He told the Philadelphia Daily News that he never considered pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship with the aide. "I truly didn't even consider or understand the full implications of the use of that term".
"I think that the idea of soul mate is that sort of person that you go through remarkable experiences together", he said.
Meehan said he told the aide "that I was a happily married man and I was not interested in a relationship, particularly not any sexual relationship, but we were soul mates".
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