When congressional sex scandals start plastering the headlines, one New York public relations expert has a secret that can save the careers of embattled politicians like Rep. Tim Mahoney.
His advice? Own up-to everything, even scandals reporters haven't uncovered. Radical, sincere repentance is the only answer to scandal, said Mike "The Reputation Doctor" Paul, not just for Mahoney, D-Fla., to win reelection, but to be right with God.
Paul, who works for the public relations firm MGP & Associates and for a time was involved in politics in Washington, often finds himself on the front lines of salvaging the public images of celebrities and public figures. As a Christian, he and his firm are transparent about their philosophy, which is based in "business and biblical principles."
"There's no line of wishy-washiness as to what the Bible says [Mahoney is] supposed to do," Paul told WORLD. "He's supposed to come 110 percent clean. The fear that we have drives us. When you come clean 110 percent that fear is then gone."
Mahoney, as a self-proclaimed Christian, needs to make a public confession, Paul said, and understand that God gave him the opportunity to be a public official. He needs to confess, Paul added, even if it goes against the advice of his political consultants.
"You have to say it fully, quickly, and often," Paul continued. "You have to be prepared for the next years for that to be one of your talking points, that 'I made a big error; here it is.'
"That's the best you can do. Everything else is trying to control it, trying to spin it. Those things will all come back to bite you."
Mahoney, who is married, admitted Saturday to having at least two affairs, but insists he broke no laws and said he will not resign. The two admitted affairs, with a former staffer and a high ranking official in Florida, were first reported on by ABC News and were based on sources in Mahoney's own offices.
Monday Mahoney's wife, Terry, filed for divorce.
Earlier, he publicly apologized to his wife, his daughters, and his constituents.
"All I can say is, I'm sorry I let you down," Mahoney said.
Mahoney confessed to "multiple" other affairs, though he would not say how many.
"You're asking me over a lifetime? I'm just saying I've been unfaithful and I'm sorry for that," he said.
Mahoney added that he told his wife about the affairs "months ago," and hoped voters would forgive him and judge him on his work in office rather than his personal failings.
"I do feel like I let them down," he said. "I just hope that they can understand I'm a human being. I never presented myself as being perfect."
Paul said that's not enough.
"Congressman Mahoney has now created pressure for the press to try to find out who the other past affairs occurred with and exactly when," he said. "I predict other women will come out of the woodwork soon to speak the truth about their past affairs with Congressman Mahoney.
"He is still under the giant microscope of the court of public opinion, which supersedes the court of law in situations like this."
Mahoney, who campaigned to bring morals back to Washington, is being accused of hypocrisy. He will continue his bid for Congress, but some speculate that his congressional career is over.
A reputation is easily smeared and difficult to wash clean.
"That's the tough part," Paul said. "That's where you not only have the opportunity to live your faith, but have the opportunity to be a vessel for Christ. You say no to your attorney, political consultant, or scared wife who says you don't need to talk about all that. You might even have a pastor who tells you that."
Mahoney's unfaithfulness, Paul reminded, isn't so foreign to every believer's struggles.
"Being a Christian is really hard," he said. "That sounds so blunt and obvious.
"The bottom line is, politics is a very dirty business, and it needs Christ now more than ever. There will be more sex scandals in Washington, because Washington is a part of our society and sex scandals are a part of our society."
The Reputation Doctor threw down a challenge to Christians to be more involved in the political process, arguing that following God in the Bible meant going to "places where evil lies."
"We have to have our shield and our armor ready," Paul said. "We get that shield and armor by being read up in the Bible and being prayed up.
"It's going to be extremely attractive to sin. You have to pull yourself back on a daily basis. Obviously Tim Mahoney wasn't surrounded by an accountability partner who was on his staff."
Repentance is the strongest public relations message, Paul said.
"Christianity becomes a magnet for pulling people in, not by hubris, but by humility, by standing on truth even when you're shivering."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.