Report: Taxpayers Forked Out $220,000 To Settle Sex Harassment Suit Against Florida Rep

It's the second known instance of a lawmaker using taxpayer dollars to quiet misconduct allegations.

Taxpayer funds to the tune of $220,000 were used to settle a lawsuit charging Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) with sexual harassment, Roll Call has reported.

Hastings was accused of touching, making unwanted sexual advances and threatening the job of a female staffer on a congressional international human rights commission he chaired, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.

Hastings called the accusations against him “ludicrous” and told Roll Call that he had no knowledge of the 2014 settlement with staffer Winsome Packer, which he said was handled by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. Funds were paid out by the Treasury Department.

Hastings told Roll Call he was “outraged” that the money was “needlessly paid to Ms. Packer.”

It’s the second reported instance of taxpayer money being being used to settle a sexual harassment claim against a congressman. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by his former spokeswoman in 2014, The New York Times reported. The funds reportedly came from an Office of Compliance account. 

House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) told GOP lawmakers that there was only a single case of those particular funds being used to settle a sex harassment suit. The House Committee on Ethics voted Thursday to investigate Farenthold over the payout.

It’s not clear why Hastings’ settlement was not included in a record of such payouts over the last five years released in November by the Office of Compliance. The Farenthold payment was included. It’s possible that funds from another taxpayer source were used in the Hastings case. 

Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) has called for Farenthold to resign. “I don’t think he thinks he’s done anything wrong,” Love told CNN on Thursday. “But the fact is, someone was paid off. It’s taxpayer dollars that [were] used. This is about people taking responsibility for what they do and changing the culture in Washington.”

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) also said in a statement that Farenthold should step aside and reimburse the taxpayer money. On Friday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) also called for Farenthold’s resignation.

Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)  have resigned in the wake of sexual harassment accustions. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) also announced he will be resigning “in the coming weeks.”