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Horsford's extramarital affair with former Senate staffer shows how narrow House rules are

Chris Marquette, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Steven Horsford had an extramarital affair with a former Senate intern spanning several years, an example that highlights how narrow the House prohibition against lawmakers sleeping with congressional staffers is.

Gabriela Linder, the woman with whom Horsford had a sexual relationship, told The Las Vegas Review-Journal that the affair began in 2009 and continued sporadically until it ended in 2019. When they met, Horsford, a Nevada Democrat, was a 36-year old state senator; Linder, then 21, was in college and worked as an intern for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Horsford didn't begin his first stint representing Nevada's 4th Congressional District until 2013 -- after Linder stopped working for Reid. If Horsford were to have had a sexual relationship with Linder while he was a member and she was working in the Senate, although there is no indication he did, it would have been permissible under House rules.

Shelbie Bostedt, a spokesperson for Horsford, issued an emailed statement on behalf of the congressman: "It is true that I had a previous consensual relationship with another adult outside of my marriage, over the course of several years. I'm deeply sorry to all of those who have been impacted by this very poor decision, most importantly my wife and family."

Horsford is married with three children.

Even the congressional reforms in response to recent sexual misconduct revealed on Capitol Hill and through the #MeToo movement would not have prohibited the relationship. In 2018, the House outlawed sexual relationships between members and their staff. A member of the House or a senator can engage in a consensual sexual relationship with a staffer as long as that person is not under their supervision.

 

The rule for the 116th Congress states: "A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not engage in a sexual relationship with any employee of the House who works under the supervision of the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, or who is an employee of a committee on which the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner serves. This paragraph does not apply with respect to any relationship between two people who are married to each other."

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at the watchdog group Public Citizen, said she was encouraged by the prohibition but noted that she believes there is room for improvement.

"Unfortunately, it is limited to the House and limited to specific situations when you are in a congressman or congresswoman's office. So, unfortunately, a situation like this is outside the bounds of the new law," Gilbert said.

"Positions of power can be felt even if you're not in the same congressional office," she added.

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