A New Push for Release of Congress’ Harassment Claims
A New Push for Release of Congress' Harassment Claims
A tip of the hat this morning to U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who is risking the ire of his colleagues by requesting and promising to release closely-held records about the way Congress deals with sexual harassment claims against lawmakers and their staffs.
In a letter dispatched on Wednesday to Congress’ Office of Compliance, the Virginia Democrat asked for the total number of harassment claims filed since 2007, the total number of claims settled, and the amount of money paid out in settlements. The request does not include the names of the lawmakers involved, which generally remains confidential as part of any settlement.
Kaine wrote that he will make a public release of the information because “I believe it will provide some insight into the scope of the problem and help determine solutions for preventing and addressing future incidents.”
Earlier this week, Common Cause called on Congress to pass legislation to close loopholes in its rules and disclose settlements that have allowed members to hide sexual harassment and other abuses for decades. In addition to settlements reached through the Office of Compliance, at least one lawmaker has tapped his office’s operating budget to settle claims he made improper advances to a staff member.
“Americans have a right to know how Congress is spending their tax dollars, and this hush money used to hide deplorable conduct by Members and their staffs is no exception,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “These slush funds, as well as office funds, have been used for far too long as hush money, and they have allowed sexual predators to remain in office. Congressional complicity in these abhorrent acts must stop, and taxpayers deserve the transparency that ensures they know that complicity has ceased.”
In a letter to lawmakers, Hobert Flynn endorsed legislation that would prohibit congressional offices from using Members’ Representational Allowances (MRAs), the Office of Compliance, the House Employment Counsel, or any other “hush fund” to pay for sexual harassment settlements. She also urged House Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the Committee on House Administration to publicly disclose the names of House members and congressional staff who have used their offices’ MRA or any other account to pay sexual harassment or misconduct settlements.