WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – When a sexual harassment claim against a member of Congress is settled, it’s taxpayers that foot the bill. But the public doesn’t know who’s involved because under the agreement, names are kept secret.
Since 1995, taxpayers have spent $17 million paying settlements to harassment claims and other workplace violations on Capitol Hill.
Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn wants to change that, along with publicizing the names of those involved in the settlements.
“I was disgusted when I heard about it, that there was a hush money fund, a secret fund, and it was being used to settle claims,” she said.
Blackburn is co-sponsor of a bill banning the use of tax dollars to pay settlement claims involving members of Congress. It would also expose the names of lawmakers involved in previous and future cases.
More than 200 claims were paid out in the last 20 years, though it’s not clear how many of them involved sexual harassment. Some may be the result of discrimination or other workplace violations but this push for change comes as claims of sexual misconduct against members of Congress are rocking Capitol Hill.
Michigan Congressman John Conyers is being asked to resign amid accusations he sexually harassed members of his staff.
Minnesota Senator Al Franken is accused of groping multiple women.
Now California Congresswoman Jackie Speier says the public wants answers.
“They do not want to pay for our inability to keep our hands to ourselves. They want accountability and transparency, and they want it now.”
There is some hesitation in identifying the names of lawmakers involved in claims because a settlement is not necessarily an admission of guilt.
But Blackburn and others say the public should know. She’s hoping to have the bill signed into law before the end of the year.