WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers in the House issued more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded settlements to address sexual harassment claims from 2008 to 2012, according to new data released Tuesday.
The Office of Compliance, where lawmakers and staffers file such claims, provided the numbers to the Committee on House Administration, which deals with the chamber’s rules and regulations, amid a recent cascade of sexual misconduct allegations against lawmakers that has forced congressional leaders to re-examine procedures for dealing with such incidents.
According to the data, there were at least three settlements related to sexual harassment claims involving unnamed House members’ offices from 2008 to 2012, totaling $115,000. That was part of a total of more than $340,000 in settlements involving House offices, which also included various cases of discrimination.
The settlements, which are not named, came from a little-known Treasury Department fund that is used to settle workplace claims involving Capitol Hill lawmakers.
Sexual misconduct claims against congressional lawmakers have recently led to resignation or retirement announcements from members of both parties, including Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.).
In 2014, Farenthold reportedly used the taxpayer fund to pay $84,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim from his former communications director, Lauren Greene. According to the Office of Compliance, that settlement was the only House payment from the fund over the last five years that involved sexual harassment.
Farenthold would not confirm or deny that the payment involved his office, saying in a statement that “the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question.”
Some lawmakers have now called for more transparency involving settlements.
Earlier this month, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called for the release of similar data involving Senate offices. But on Monday, the Office of Compliance denied his request, saying that it “does not possess reliable information.”
Legislators in both the House and the Senate have introduced proposals to restrict the use of taxpayer-funded settlements. A bill in the Senate includes a provision to force lawmakers to pay settlements out of their own pockets, part of broader legislation that aims to overhaul the byzantine system for addressing sexual misconduct incidents in Congress.
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