The Congressional Hispanic Caucus will not call on Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas (Calif.) to step down as chairman of its political action committee following allegations that he assaulted a then-16-year-old girl in 2007.
Cárdenas currently chairs the Bold PAC, a group that donates money to Democratic candidates, and attended a Washington fundraiser on Wednesday with multiple Hispanic caucus members, who were encouraged to be there to show support for Cárdenas, CNN reported Friday.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham [D., N.M.], the chair of the caucus, relayed concerns to Cárdenas, 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 Cárdenas "appropriately asked us to withhold judgment until there is a full investigation of the facts."
"Congressman Cárdenas 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.
Cárdenas has denied the allegations leveled against him, calling them politically motivated.
While some Congressional Hispanic Caucus members showed their support for Cárdenas, others expressed frustration with Democratic leaders for their lack of action as the party has attempted to take the moral high ground over sexual misconduct toward women.
"Tony sees staying in leadership as a way to show that his colleagues support him. It's selfish," a caucus member told CNN. "Instead, it's hurting our Bold PAC candidates, scaring donors, and raising questions about our credibility."
Pelosi, who last week called for an ethics investigation into the allegations against Cárdenas, declined to answer a question on whether Cárdenas should resign any leadership roles as she left a news conference on Thursday.
"Pelosi does not have the authority to remove Cárdenas from his leadership role since he was elected to the position by the whole caucus," CNN noted. "Cárdenas would either have to voluntarily step down or be voted out by his colleagues."
Earlier this month, Cárdenas identified himself as the unnamed "John Doe" in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in late April. The complaint alleges that, in 2007, an "elected politician" sexually battered and assaulted a 16-year-old girl. Under California law, the civil suit cannot name the accuser or the alleged assailant.
Cárdenas has called the allegations "absolutely false" in a statement through his lawyer.