Recent high-profile sexual harassment and assault accusations have raised public awareness of widespread abuses of power, and the U.S. Congress has not been immune. Previously unknown to many citizens, a taxpayer-funded account exists for lawmakers to settle lawsuits resulting from such abuses of power.
Rep. Blake Farenthold used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by his former spokesman.... Greene said another Farenthold aide told her the lawmaker said he had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about Greene. She also claimed that Farenthold “regularly drank to excess” and told her in February 2014 that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.”
Greene filed a lawsuit against Farenthold when he fired her for complaining about his behavior, subsequently dropping it after coming to a settlement agreement.
“[A]fter it became clear that further litigating this case would come at great expense to all involved — including the taxpayers — the parties engaged in mediation with a court-appointed mediator,” the statement read. “After extensive discussion and consideration, the parties jointly agreed to accept the solution proposed by the mediator.”
Farenthold would not confirm or deny that the settlement came from his office, however:
House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door Friday morning meeting that only one House office in the past five years had used an Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment complaint. Harper said in that one instance, the settlement totaled $84,000.
Politico notes that using taxpayer funds could come back to haunt the Texas lawmaker.
Farenthold is likely to face repercussions from fellow House Republicans for using taxpayer money to settle a harassment claim. Recent reports, including in POLITICO, revealed that $17 million has been paid out quietly to settle workplace disputes.