That former Rep would be New York Democrat Eric Massa, whom you may remember for his famous defense to charges that he had groped a male staffer. Not only did I grope him, Massa told Glenn Beck a few days after he resigned in 2010, “I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe.” They were just playing!
He lasted slightly more than a year in Congress. But that was long enough to have triggered a secret payout from the Office of Compliance to the staffers he groped, according to ABC. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first confirmation we have of a sexual harassment settlement being authorized by the office. (Conyers’s settlement with his former staffer was paid out of his House office budget, remember.) Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier claimed a few weeks ago that Compliance has paid upwards of $17 million in settlements over the last 20 years or so but that’s the figure for *all* workplace settlements involving Congress, not the number for the subset that have to do with sexual misconduct specifically. Now we know that at least $100,000 of that figure went to compensation for sexual wrongdoing. At least.
How many more? And when was this paid? ABC doesn’t say but presumably it was in 2010, the year Massa resigned, when feminist icon Nancy Pelosi was in charge of the House.
The Congressional Office of Compliance secretly paid close to $100,000 in taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims from at least two young male staffers who worked for disgraced former Congressman Eric Massa, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter told ABC News…
The 1995 Congressional Accountability Act gave the Office of Compliance the ability to use taxpayer dollars from the Department of Treasury to settle harassment claims against members of Congress…
Making the process even more opaque, accusers who resolve sexual harassment complaints in Congress are almost always made to sign non-disclosure agreements as a part of the terms of their financial settlements. That agreement prevents them from talking about the money or the allegations of sexual misconduct.
“The entire process is designed solely to protect the institution of Congress,” said a person intimately familiar with Massa’s cases, who asked not to be identified.
The “Congressional Accountability Act” is a perfectly Orwellian name for a process constructed to avoid accountability. It’s your money that’s paying for some congressional parasite’s misbehavior but you have no right to know the amount, the details of what happened, or even the fact that anything happened in the first place. The victims can’t discuss it publicly. Massa’s situation is actually the best-case scenario in that he paid a price by being forced out of Congress; imagine how many representatives have misappropriated taxpayer funds by triggering sexual-misconduct settlements and been reelected because their constituents never knew about it. Your employees are covering their filthy tracks with “company money” and you don’t even get to know which ones, because you might fire them.
At the barest, barest minimum, the public should have the right to know if any sort of settlement has been paid on behalf of a particular congressman. Ideally NDAs would be illegal as a condition of the payout so that the victims could speak openly about what they experienced and congressmen would be on the hook for reimbursing the Treasury for funds paid. We could also ban the payment of settlements by the government for congressional harassment altogether going forward, although that runs the risk of victims going uncompensated if the harasser can’t afford to pay a hefty settlement himself. Yesterday a bipartisan group of House members, including Marsha Blackburn and Ron DeSantis, introduced the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act, which would do everything I just suggested — outing congressional offenders who’ve already had settlements paid on their behalf, ordering reimbursement of the money, lifting the NDA gag orders on their victims, and barring future settlements by the Office of Compliance. What are we waiting for? Pass it.
Here’s DeSantis talking about the bill. One nagging question: Given how small some congressional offices are, is there any way to keep a victim’s identity secret if the harasser is outed? Details of what happened, exactly, would need to be closely held to protect the victim’s identity.