How do you like knowing that your tax dollars helped to pay more than $27,000 in hush money to a female staffer of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who just resigned today after multiple accusations of sexual harassment by female employees?
Even worse, what do you think about the fact that there is actually a special fund in the House of Representatives that has paid more than $17 million in public money to settle workplace disputes, including those involving sexual misconduct, since 1997?
It's not bad enough that politicians attempt to trade pay raises and promotions for sexual favors, but using taxpayers' money to cover it up is unconscionable.
Now, the money Conyers paid to the woman did not come from that fund; no, it came from his official office account -- but we pay for that, too. So you and I unknowingly chipped in to help the Congressman pay off the woman so she wouldn't go to the media and tarnish his sterling reputation.
The slush fund money covers all sorts of settlements, including cases involving pay or workplace safety. so it's not all about sex. But because everything is kept secret, nobody really knows how the money is used or for what or who benefited. The names of House members involved in such cases are never disclosed, so there is no way for potential victims to be warned.
The Office of Compliance, which pays out the settlements, does not release a breakdown of the cases by category. Moreover, it says “a large portion of cases” it resolves stem from Capitol Hill employers other than the House and Senate, such as the Capitol Police and Architect of the Capitol, which manages the buildings and grounds. So it's not just House members who it keeps out of hot water.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a longtime proponent of reforming Capitol Hill's harassment policy, is pushing legislation that would make members of Congress personally liable for harassment settlements against them. Last week, Speier claimed that two sitting members of Congress — one in each party — have engaged in sexual harassment. She said the compliance office is “an enabler of sexual harassment,” because the process puts victims at a disadvantage.
In recent days several House members, most of them newcomers, have expressed shock that such a system could exist.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said he will introduce legislation to unseal congressional records of taxpayer money that was used to pay for sexual harassment settlements. Another Congressman told MSNBC this evening that he had no idea such a fund had been established and said he'll push legislation to abolish it.
We'll see where this goes and who else is outed for sexual misdeeds in the hallowed halls of Congress.The Republicans and the Democrats are equally to blame on this one.