New York Democratic congressman Sean Patrick Maloney gave a taxpayer-funded job to a longtime family friend who had no political experience and simultaneously worked full-time as a magazine editor, records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon show.
Maloney from September 2019 to July 2020 employed Hollywood journalist Kevin Sessums in his official office, according to House disbursement disclosures. On Facebook, Sessums has repeatedly boasted of knowing Maloney and his husband, Randy Florke, "for 30 years," and Sessums regularly refers to Florke as "an old friend." It's unclear exactly what Sessums did in Maloney's office—the Democrat's spending records merely list Sessums as a "staff" member and offer no specific title—but Sessums almost certainly did not work for Maloney full time. That's because he worked as editor-in-chief of his own entertainment magazine—sessumsMagazine.com—during his entire time in Maloney's office, according to his LinkedIn, which does not mention his work for Maloney.
This is not the first time Maloney, who is facing a surprisingly difficult reelection bid against Republican Mike Lawler, has used taxpayer funds to pay one of his husband's personal friends. From March to October 2021, Maloney's office paid thousands to Erick Ramos, who also worked as Florke's personal trainer at the time. The ordeal prompted a political headache for Maloney, with Lawler accusing the Democrat of thinking "that ethics rules don't apply to him." "That's what happens when you've been a Washington insider for too long," the Republican's campaign told the Daily Mail.
Maloney paid Sessums, who did not return a request for comment, roughly $3,000 a month in taxpayer funds, allowing his husband's "old friend" to pocket nearly $40,000 during the 10-month gig. Sessums wrote a daily column for his magazine as he collected the taxpayer-funded cash—in some of those columns, Sessums detailed personal travel to New Orleans, Mississippi, and London on days in which the House was in session.
Sessums's job in Maloney's office was his first in politics—prior to his role as an apparently part-time House staffer, Sessums interviewed A-list celebrities as a Vanity Fair writer, a job he lost after a falling-out with his editor that led to "a long descent into substance abuse, followed by unemployment and a time on food stamps," according to the New York Times. Sessums went on to work as an editor for FourTwoNine magazine before launching his own publication.
Maloney spokeswoman Mia Ehrenberg said Sessums "worked as a communication staffer" and offered no further details on his responsibilities. She acknowledged Sessums "had a personal project separate from his House employment." Ehrenberg did not return questions on the Maloney family's personal relationship with Sessums and whether Sessums only worked part-time in Maloney's office.
Maloney joined Congress in 2013 and became chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) eight years later, meaning he is tasked with maintaining Democrats' House majority. Maloney was not seen as politically vulnerable entering 2022—a DCCC chair has not lost reelection since 1980, according to election handicapper Cook Political Report, and Maloney assured his colleagues in April that he did not "see a scenario" where he would have to "spend party resources on his own race." Months later, however, Maloney did just that, with the DCCC announcing last week that it would spend $600,000 on an ad attacking Maloney's opponent. That announcement came as the Cook Political Report moved Maloney's race from "lean Democrat" to "toss up" and as Republican polling showed Lawler with a 2-point lead. Perhaps the best evidence of Maloney's vulnerability: VoteVets, a PAC that supports Democratic veterans, last week announced a $1.2 million ad buy to help Maloney, who is not a veteran.
"When Republicans' top Super PAC announced an ad buy against [Maloney] in April, many assumed it was a gambit to troll or distract the DCCC chair," Dave Wasserman, the Cook Political Report's House editor, wrote on Oct. 24. "But two weeks out from Election Day, Maloney finds himself in deep danger, simultaneously fighting for his political life in his Hudson Valley seat and desperately trying to prevent Democrats from being swept out of the House majority."
Maloney will face Lawler in one week after he emerged from his August primary, which saw liberal state senator Alessandra Biaggi challenge the incumbent Democrat over his decision to run in Rep. Mondaire Jones's (D., N.Y.) 17th Congressional District, forcing Jones to run elsewhere. Maloney has raised $5 million to Lawler's $1.1 million as of Oct. 19.