Rumors of Chris Lee flirting with women, and possibly more, have swirled around him since his 2008 campaign for Congress, the Buffalo News reports today.
Several people contacted the campaign of Lee's Democratic opponent in 2008, Alice J. Kryzan, to say they had firsthand knowledge of Lee cheating on, or attempting to cheat on, his wife, two sources with knowledge of the campaign said.
Kryzan decided against pursuing the accusations because she didn't want to run a dirty campaign, the sources said.
Lee's alleged behavior reportedly drew the attention of House Majority Leader John Boehner. According to various reports, including the Buffalo News, Lee was allegedly behaving inappropriately toward female lobbyists. Boehner reportedly told Lee, "knock it off."
Boehner has told reporters that Lee resigned on his own with no pressure from leadership.
Politico reports that Lee's sudden departure caught the GOP by surprise.
House Speaker John Boehner and other top Republicans were unaware of the brewing scandal before Gawker posted the story early Wednesday afternoon, meaning party leaders were caught flat-footed when the controversy broke.
“Lee’s people tried to handle it internally,” a senior Republican aide said of Lee and his staff, adding that such a move was “a big mistake.”
Meanwhile, Lee's former staff is now under the supervision of Clerk of the House of Representatives. All of Lee's offices are remaining open to handle constituent matters.
Reaction in Genesee County to Lee's resignation and allegations from the Internet news site Gawker.com -- that Lee sent a shirtless picture of himself to a woman he met through Craigslist -- has been one of shock and disbelief.
County Legislator Ray Cianfrini said Lee was a guy he had high hopes for.
"From everything I could gather he was a rising star," Cianfrini said.
"He was appointed to Ways and Means in his second term, so obviously, he had some respect (in Washington), so for him to self-destruct like this is a real disappointment."
Legislator Jay Grasso said, "We all worked really hard for him, so I'm disappointed."
Dean Norton, president of the Farm Bureau, said Lee's departure from the House is a potential set back for the agriculture interests in New York, both because of Lee's quick rise in power and his expressed interest in the ag business.
"We were looking forward to to having an ally on the Ways and Means Committee who would bring ag funding issues to the forefront," Norton said.
Batavia's Town Supervisor Greg Post had a little bit different take.
Post heard a talk-show host complaining about the fall of another leader and Post said, "He's not my leader. He's my representative."
"My comment would be that I'm not surprised by the higher percentage of failures in elected positions," Post said. "It's an accurate representation of what our nation has evolved to over the past 50 years. This isn't the same country I grew up in."
We also asked for a comment from Elba's Bill Kauffman, writer and iconoclastic historian, author of nine books, including "Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette," and a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal. Here's Kauffman's response:
"For 20 years, Genesee County was represented in Congress by Barber B. Conable, a thoughtful, rooted, humane man who was exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind. The series of Erie County hacks who have succeeded him -- Bill Paxon, Tom Reynolds, and now the Shirtless Wonder -- have been disgraces.
"I'd love to see a decent, honorable insurgent Republican from one of the rural counties take on whichever humdrum timeserver the GOP bosses choose. And I hope the Democrats run a vigorous populist instead of a suburban liberal who gets the shakes when he/she crosses the Pembroke town line."