Members of Congress who have used taxpayer money to quiet their sexual harassment accusers could very well be identified under legislation being put forth by several of their colleagues.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) sent shockwaves through Washington's halls of power recently with this bit of testimony:
Speier: "There are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat – right now, who serve – who have engaged in sexual harassment."
Since then, three have been "outed" actually – two Democrats and one Republican. But given that $17 million have reportedly been paid out over the last 20 years for all manner of employment claims against members of Congress, it's possible that many more will be "unmasked."
A bipartisan bill introduced on Wednesday seeks to unmask members of Congress who have been accused of settling sexual harassment lawsuits using taxpayer money. One of the co-sponsors of the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act is Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), who said on Fox News this morning she was "completely disgusted" when she heard of the existence of the hush fund.
It's time to "bring some sunshine [and] accountability" to the issue, Blackburn said. "Let's end this practice [of] personal bailouts," she added. "... Those who have used this money – taxpayer dollars – to pay these settlements and claims, they need to pay that money back, with interest."
Conservative group: 'Quit protecting perverts in Congress'
AFA Action is on-board with Blackburn and co-sponsor Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida). Spokesman Rob Chambers says Americans want to know names, how much, and for what. "These funds don't come from the congressman's or congresswoman's particular account – these funds come from the U.S. Treasury," he explains.
A big part of the problem, according to AFA Action, comes from a bill called the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, which ironically did the exact opposite.
"There is a confidentiality part that's written into the law – and they knew this in 1995," Chambers tells OneNewsNow. "So it's basically a shroud, a means for the swamp to protect itself."
AFA Action is circulating a petition to bring sunshine to that dark corner of Congress.
"We're asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to release the names of those members of both the Senate and House who have used federal funds to pay for settlement charges," says Chambers. "We're also asking for these two leaders in the House and Senate to make known the amount that they settled for – and I think they ought to pay the money back with interest."
In an Action Alert to its supporters, AFA Action documents the history of the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, pointing out that it was sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, voted for by many current members of Congress, and fast-tracked through Congress in less than three weeks before being signed by then-President Bill Clinton.
Among those joining GOP Representatives Blackburn and DeSantis in sponsoring the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act are three female Democratic lawmakers - Cheri Bustos (Illinois), Kathleen Rice (New York) and Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii).
“For too long survivors of sexual harassment and assault have been isolated, shamed, and bullied into silence, while their abusers walk away scot-free with the privilege of anonymity and with no personal or financial accountability," Gabbard said from the House floor.
“Congress needs to act now to end the practice of taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements, expose perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault, and provide a fair and transparent path to justice for survivors. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable. It has no place in Congress or in our society. It must end."
Editor's Note: AFA Action is a division of the American Family Association, the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates OneNewsNow.com.
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