Craigslist Congressman, We Barely Knew You

The Congressman behind The Craigslist ad.

Feb. 11, 2011 -- His strapping bare chest and sloppy use of the Internet likely will propel Christopher Lee into notoriety as the most handsome shirtless politician since Scott Brown's days as model in Cosmopolitan. But voters across the nation are asking, "Who exactly is Rep. Christopher Lee?"

A relative newcomer to Washington who was just four weeks into his second term in the House of Representatives, Lee now is headed back to Buffalo, N.Y., after a shirtless self-portrait he reportedly sent to a woman he met on Craigslist surfaced on the gossip website Gawker.

At a time when Republicans under Speaker of the House John Boehner have held the House majority for only four weeks, the Craigslist Congressman scandal is certainly an unwelcome disturbance to the GOP.

"I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all," Lee said in a statement Wednesday evening announcing his resignation. "I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness."

Thursday, Boehner reacted to Lee's resignation.

"Congressman Lee made his own decision that he thought was in his best interest and the interest of his family," Boehner said at a press conference. "I believe that members of Congress should be held to the highest ethical standard. And that's what the American people expect."

But several Republican sources on Capitol Hill say that Lee had a reputation as a member of Congress who worked hard in the office and was equally active on the party circuit after hours.

"In terms of ways you'd measure a member of Congress and executing his daily responsibilities, he was outstanding, but once the lights were off in the office he'd engage in other activities," said one GOP staffer.

In the 2008 election cycle, when Democrats gained 21 seats in the House of Representatives, Lee proved to be a strong candidate, winning an open seat in the 26th district of New York.

Lee replaced Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., who retired from Congress after the 2006 election cycle.

Rep. Chris Lee: Just Who Is He?

Lee was an attractive candidate to the Republican Party in 2008, with a strong business record and vast personal wealth.

According to a biography on his congressional website, Lee "acquired his business expertise working in his family's manufacturing business, which he helped build from a small machine shop into a thriving enterprise with more than 20 companies worldwide. The flagship company, Enidine Incorporated, was based in Orchard Park, New York."

Once he was elected, Lee was recognized as one of "The 50 Richest Members of Congress" by the Washington newspaper Roll Call.

Reynolds, who was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, personally recruited Lee and publicly endorsed his congressional campaign.

After Wednesday's prompt resignation, just hours after broke the story, Democrats quickly seized on the fiasco.

"This is the cherry on the sundae that has been a horrible week for House Republicans," a senior Democratic aide said Wednesday after learning of Lee's resignation.

Republicans have also suffered several setbacks on the House floor this week, with bills to suspend congressional rules failing on consecutive days, and another bill pulled from the floor during debate because it was sure to face defeat.

Boehner said the House is in a "new era."

"We wanted to get off to a fast start. That means that a lot of the committees weren't organized and things were brought to the floor. It's a good reason why we ought to have a substantial committee process before we bring a bill to the floor," Boehner said. "It's certainly not the first time and probably won't be the last time. But I'm committed to allowing the House to work its will."