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Republican Lee quits House in Internet scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A married congressman abruptly quit Congress on Wednesday after revelations that he had sent flirtatious messages and a bare-chested photograph of himself to another woman on a prominent Internet site.

Republican Representative Chris Lee, 46, issued a statement apologizing for his actions, but did not directly mention an Internet report about his communications on the popular Craigslist website with a woman who was not his wife.

He was serving his second two-year term in the House of Representatives, representing a district in western New York state.

The Internet site gawker.com printed a series of e-mails the lawmaker apparently had exchanged with the woman, who asked not to be identified. The site also posted a picture of a shirtless Lee and reported that he had described himself as a divorced lobbyist and a "fit fun classy guy."

"The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately," Lee said in a statement posted on his congressional website.

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

Lee's resignation came just a month after his fellow Republicans formally took control of the House of Representatives from President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats.

His decision to quit Congress quickly after the scandal erupted came as House Republicans sought to focus attention on efforts such as trimming federal spending and rolling back Obama's healthcare overhaul law.

Lee was a member of two powerful House committees -- the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and the Financial Services Committee. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2008 and was re-elected in November.

(Reporting by Joanne Allen; Editing by Will Dunham)

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