U.S. House secretly paid $115,000 to settle harassment claims over 4 years


The House of Representatives secretly paid $115,000 to settle three sexual harassment claims between 2008 and 2012, Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi, chairman of the House Administration Committee, said Tuesday. 

The figure includes $85,000 paid in 2010 to settle claims brought by young men who said that Rep. Eric J. Massa, D-N.Y., had groped them, according to a person familiar with that settlement. 

The figure brings to $199,000 the amount paid out of a fund controlled by Congress’ secretive Office of Compliance since 2008 to settle a total of four sexual harassment claims, under a confidential procedure that most lawmakers say they did not know existed until recently. 

Harper released the new figures on Tuesday as part of an ongoing review by his committee, which is working on overhauling the way sexual harassment claims are handled in Congress. 

“As I have stated from the beginning of this review, one case of sexual harassment is one case too many,” Harper said in a prepared statement. “We must create a culture within our Capitol Hill community that instills in every employee and employer, new and old, that there is no place for sexual harassment in the halls of Congress.” 

The disclosure comes amid a national reckoning over sexual harassment in the workplace that has reached the corridors of the Capitol; this month alone, five members of Congress have either resigned or said they would not run for re-election because of allegations of sexual misconduct: Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.; Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.; Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.; Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas; and Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev. 

The sexual harassment claims account for roughly one-third of the total claims paid out by House members through the Office of Compliance, which handles a wide array of workplace-related civil rights claims, including those related to racial, age or sexual discrimination. 

There is no public information available about the claims, or which members of Congress they involve. Harper said Tuesday that a bipartisan bill to make lawmakers personally liable for sexual harassment claims would be filed as early as Wednesday night. The bill would allow taxpayers to pay initial claims but require members to reimburse the Treasury. 

Under federal law, congressional employees who bring claims against lawmakers must go through a confidential mediation process; although the law does not require it, the parties typically sign nondisclosure forms agreeing not to talk about any settlements. 

However, Farenthold has acknowledged that Congress paid $84,000 to settle a claim filed in 2014 by his former communications director, Lauren Greene, who alleged that he told another aide that he had “sexual fantasies” about her, among other indiscretions. Farenthold has promised to repay the money to the Treasury. 

In addition, some lawmakers have secretly paid settlements from their office budgets. Conyers, who represented Michigan for more than 50 years before his recent resignation, settled a claim for $27,000 out of his personal account.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Florida lawmakers advance new loan type sought by payday-loan industry
Florida lawmakers advance new loan type sought by payday-loan industry

Florida lawmakers have started moving forward with a proposal to revamp rules for the payday-loan industry, allowing customers to borrow larger amounts of money over longer periods of time. The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee unanimously approved the changes Wednesday, a day after a Senate committee backed the Senate version. The proposal, in...
Streeter: Writer’s criticism proves age is just a number, not a sign of maturity
Streeter: Writer’s criticism proves age is just a number, not a sign of maturity

CNN Headline News’ Asheligh Banfield came under fire for criticizing a woman who accused actor Aziz Ansari of date rape. By Leslie Gray Streeter When my niece was about 13, her two favorite insults were “That’s old” and “Well, I’ve never heard of it.” We heard them mostly when she didn’t like...
The Stormy Daniels story is a reminder of Trump’s imperviousness to traditional scandals
The Stormy Daniels story is a reminder of Trump’s imperviousness to traditional scandals

By our count, at least six media outlets were aware of the alleged affair between porn star Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump before the 2016 election.  - InTouch magazine spoke with Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) in 2011 - before she allegedly signed an agreement with Trump's team in which she was paid $130,000 not to discuss the...
Angela Rye to host her own political show on BET
Angela Rye to host her own political show on BET

Get ready for the perfect blend of "Lemonade" and political tea-spilling: Angela Rye, the Beyoncé-quoting cable news commentator, is set to headline her own show on BET.  Rye, a fixture on CNN, will host and executive-produce a quarterly show tentatively titled "Angela Rye's State of the Union," according to the website...
Trump’s plans to remake the Federal Reserve hit snags
Trump’s plans to remake the Federal Reserve hit snags

In less than three weeks, the Federal Reserve, which is widely credited with playing a major role in leading the United States out of the Great Recession, will be under new leadership. Current Fed chair Janet L. Yellen is leaving, and Jerome Powell is President Donald Trump's nominee to take her place. But Trump's efforts to remake the Federal Reserve...
More Stories