“People would go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s Clay,’” said Erie Meyer, a tech worker who said Johnson harassed her at a 2013 conference. “And I’m thinking, ‘How have you all been letting him wander the halls of progressive power and know he’s like this?’”
HuffPost spoke with more than two dozen of Johnson’s former supervisors, peers and colleagues, many of whom talked on the record, in search of an explanation. The answer implicates not only Johnson as a serial abuser but a constellation of progressive and good-government groups that failed to put their values into action. On the eve of the most consequential midterm election in a decade, it also raises grave questions about how prepared politicians are to protect the people who get them elected. Nearly 20,000 people will work in the local and national campaigns this year, and as many as 5 percent of all registered voters will volunteer. Should they face harassment or abuse, few of them will have any recourse.
“We just pass creeps from campaign to campaign,” said Meg Reilly, vice president of the Campaign Workers Guild, a new union seeking to organize political workers across the country. “The excuse becomes, ‘We’ll deal with this once the candidate gets elected.’ People tell themselves that if they’re working for this candidate who’s really fantastic, who opposes sexism and racism, then everyone on the campaign is immune from committing the same sins.” Once the election ends, little prevents abusive employees from starting a second act in government, political advocacy or nonprofits.