Hispanic Democrats keeping C-rdenas as head of political group despite sexual misconduct allegations

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has no plans to ask Rep. Tony C-rdenas to vacate the chairmanship of its political ...

Posted: May 11, 2018 6:26 PM
Updated: May 11, 2018 6:26 PM

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has no plans to ask Rep. Tony C-rdenas to vacate the chairmanship of its political campaign committee as the California Democrat faces allegations of sexually assaulting a then-16-year-old girl in 2007 -- a decision angering some House Democrats who say the party appears to be turning a blind eye to the controversy.

C-rdenas remains active as the head of Bold PAC, a group that donates to Democratic candidates. And on Wednesday, C-rdenas attended a Washington fundraiser that Hispanic caucus members were encouraged by their colleagues to attend as a way to show support for him amid the allegations, sources say. He's furiously denied the allegations, telling his colleagues he's been the victim of a political vendetta.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the chair of the caucus, relayed concerns to C-rdenas, according to a source familiar with the conversation, but she did not ask him to step down from running the political action committee.

Asked to comment on her conversation, Lujan Grisham said in a statement provided by her spokesman that C-rdenas "appropriately asked us to withhold judgment until there is a full investigation of the facts."

"Congressman C-rdenas said he will fully cooperate with an ethics investigation," she continued. "I agree there should be a prompt investigation by the House Ethics Committee."

The comments echo the positions taken by top House Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, but it's far from clear whether the House Ethics Committee will even have jurisdiction to investigate allegations from more than a decade ago.

Some Democrats are frustrated with their party's leadership for the lack of action, which comes at a moment when the party has sought to take the moral high ground over sexual misconduct towards women.

"Tony sees staying in leadership as a way to show that his colleagues support him. It's selfish," a Congressional Hispanic Caucus member told CNN. "Instead, it's hurting our Bold PAC candidates, scaring donors and raising questions about our credibility."

CNN reached out to C-rdenas' office for comment on this story and has not yet received a response.

The Hispanic caucus also met Thursday, but sources say the topic of C-rdenas did not come up, though one source noted the caucus does not discuss campaign-related matters in meetings on Capitol Hill.

Lujan Grisham's comment comes as other Democratic leaders have also taken a wait-and-see approach towards C-rdenas. In addition to his role as chair of Bold PAC, the congressman has a separate leadership position under Pelosi created after the 2016 elections, as well as a lower-level position on the whip team under Hoyer of Maryland.

While Pelosi called last week for an Ethics Committee investigation into the matter, she declined to answer a question as she left a news conference to head to House votes Thursday on whether C-rdenas' should resign any leadership roles.

Pelosi does not have the authority to remove C-rdenas from his leadership role since he was elected to the position by the whole caucus, a senior Democratic aide noted to CNN earlier this week. C-rdenas would either have to voluntarily step down or be voted out by his colleagues.

On Tuesday, Hoyer gave no indication he thinks C-rdenas should resign from his whip role. Hoyer told reporters he considers the allegations to be "very serious" and warrant investigation. He said C-rdenas has approached him to say he's not guilty and is prepared to cooperate fully with any probe.

Asked if C-rdenas should step down from his whip position, Hoyer argued C-rdenas is on a team with multiple people and that his position is "not a leadership role." According to whip hierarchy, there are several members who rank above C-rdenas.

Earlier this month, C-rdenas identified himself through a lawyer as the subject of a complaint filed in late April by Los Angeles attorney Lisa Bloom. The civil suit, which due to a California law did not name the accuser or the alleged assailant, alleges that in 2007, an "elected politician" sexually battered and assaulted a 16-year-old girl. C-rdenas vehemently denied the accusation through a statement from his attorney Patricia Glaser, who called the claim "absolutely false and are utterly inconsistent with who he is - in the workplace, in the community, and at home."

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