Yesterday we learned that the Senate Office of Compliance wasn’t going to be releasing information about sexual harassment settlements made with taxpayer money. It turns out that the House Office of Compliance is being more forthcoming with their information. At least a little more forthcoming. CBS News reports that they’ve figured out the total number of cases and the amounts of money involved.
Between the years of 2008 – 2012, three cases involving sexual harassment in offices of members of Congress were quietly settled and paid out a total of $115,000 in taxpayers’ money in settlements, the House disclosed Tuesday. House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper, R-Miss., made the revelation, after he received information on settlement and awards statistics from the Office of Compliance.
This was part of his request from OOC for a breakdown of the $17 million total that has been paid by the congressional Office of Compliance account to settle the claims. Of the 15 claims in that time period listed by the office, three involve sexual harassment. Those claims were settled for $85,000, $10,000 and $20,000.
Earlier this month, CBS News confirmed that Rep. Blake Farenthold was the only sitting House member since 2013 to have used the account. An $84,000 claim against him was paid from the congressional Office of Compliance account.
When I first saw those figures I assumed that one of them was the Blake Farenthold settlement. But while the figures were close ($85K as opposed to the $84K for Farenthold) they weren’t the same and these incidents took place before his settlement. That seems like such an odd figure for a go-to offer, doesn’t it? 84 or 85 thousand is a nice chunk of change but if you’re going that high, why not just round it up to $100K?
In any event, it’s not as lengthy of a list as you might have feared. Three cases in four years is still three too many, but it’s not an epidemic. Of course, there’s still a rather important bit of information missing from this report. Who were the three people who were accused? I’m not saying we need to name the victims if they don’t wish to come forward, but it’s also possible that they might be more than willing to talk but are being restricted by a gag order. (That seems to be the modus operandi for Congress in dealing with these situations.) If we’re footing the bill for these settlements it’s difficult to see how Congress justifies keeping the public in the dark.
If there’s any good news to be had in this story it’s that the original figure of $17 million was paid out almost entirely for reasons other than sexual harassment claims. Large portions of the money went for claims involving anthrax and asbestos. So that’s something to feel better about!
Wait a minute…. did you say “anthrax?” Oh, brother.