Conservatives Call on Congress to Name Members Who Used Tax Money to Settle Sex Harassment Claims

By Melanie Arter | January 26, 2018 | 3:43 PM EST

U.S. Capitol (Screenshot)

(CNSNews.com) – A coalition of more than 60 conservatives signed a letter Wednesday calling on the House Republican leadership to take action on a bill requiring the disclosure of members of Congress who used taxpayer funds to settle cases of sexual harassment.

H.R. 4494,  the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act, was introduced in November by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).

The bill, which has 100 bipartisan cosponsors, requires “disclosure within 30 calendar days of all settlement payments funded by taxpayers, the reason for the payment and the nature of the allegation, and the member of Congress or congressional staffer implicated in the matter.”

It also prohibits “future use of taxpayer dollars to pay sexual harassment and sexual assault claims against members of Congress and staff” and prohibits “members of Congress from using office budgets to camouflage payments.”

Furthermore, it requires “members of Congress and staff that have ever been named in a sexual harassment or sexual assault settlement paid for by taxpayers” to pay the money back to the U.S. Treasury “with interest.”

The Conservative Action Project (CAP), a coalition that includes the CEOs of more than 100 organizations representing all major elements of the conservative movement--economic, social, and national security--sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urging that the DeSantis bill be given “prompt attention and passage.”

The letter also included a memo entitled, “No Taxes for Hush Money,” which calls for an end of the congressional “hush fund.” The website NoTaxesForHushMoney.com was also launched for taxpayers to urge Congress to “end this outrage.”

Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance, one of the conservative leaders who signed the letter, told CNSNews.com she loves the bill.

“Concerned Women for America has been calling on Congress on Speaker Ryan now for weeks to release that list,” she said. “I mean, really, it doesn’t make sense that the American people are stuck footing the bill for the bad behavior of members of Congress, and it’s our money. We need to know how it was spent.”

However, Nance said she’s not interested in the identities of the alleged victims.

“I don’t think I need to know the names of the victims, but I need to know what members of Congress I had to pay for, and I think it will happen. It has to happen. It was inappropriate that it happened. We can do better,” she said.

Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute, told CNSNews.com that he supports disclosing the names of those who used taxpayer funded payouts for sexual harassment victims.”

“This was a pretty well-kept secret until the stuff became headline news. I had no idea that it was going on, and I’ve asked several veteran friends of mine, who have over the years served on congressional staff, and they didn’t know about it either,” Blackwell said.

“This was a pretty closely held secret, and I could understand why people would want it to be kept secret, but it’s government funds, and I think they should be disclosed,” Blackwell added.

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell told CNSNews.com that taxpayers should demand that the names are disclosed.

“This is one of those great abuses of the federal government, taking taxpayer money as hush money for the deeds about which they were accused. You’re darn right they better come through. The public has every right to know it, and how dare Congress withhold the names? This just continues that corruption. No wonder the people can’t stand the swamp,” Bozell said.

Bozell said he “100 percent” supports the DeSantis bill and thinks “it’s deplorable for any member of Congress not to support it, because they are in every sense of the word, supporting a cover-up.”

Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring--who also signed the letter--said there are three bills that were introduced at the House Administration Committee, but DeSantis’ bill first caught his attention.

“That’s also the bill that I think has the most broadly bipartisan support. As of last count, there were 100 co-sponsors--74 Republicans and 26 Democrats. So I think that that’s the bill that seems to me to be trying to do the most comprehensive approach towards addressing this scandal, and that’s the right word--scandal,” Hanna said.

“There are two levels of the scandal. The first is the actual behavior. That’s reprehensible and must be disclosed and stopped. The second level is almost as egregious, and that is the notion that taxpayers’ money has been used to pay the victims and secure their silence,” he said.

“The whole idea of a cash settlement in--not talking now about Congress--just in general the idea of a cash settlement when something like harassment is on the table is for the cash settlement to be an accepting of responsibility by the perpetrator,” Hanna added.

“It is a price, which the perpetrator is supposed to pay as a consequence of the reprehensible acts that were performed. The idea that you get the taxpayer rather than the perpetrator to pay the bill is completely contrary to the notion of accepting responsibility, and I think that’s an outrage,” he said.

Hanna said any cash settlement paid by a member of Congress or their staff should be paid from the perpetrator’s own funds, or from money they raise through a legal defense fund, “but it should not be taxpayers’ money, and it should not therefore be office funds either” that is paid for by the taxpayers.

“Those are the two problems that I think 4494 addresses better than the other two bills. But having said that, I don’t care which one is ultimately the one whose framework finds its way to the House floor.

“The House Administration Committee may well try to take the best out of all three bills and put it on the floor. The point is, it’s time to take leadership, and that’s why I put together this coalition of now I think some 72--if I’m not mistaken--signers to our bill that represent over 60 largely conservative outside groups, public policy groups and the like,” Hanna said.

“And we are then trying to get those groups that have members to contact their member of Congress to say, these are problems that need to be addressed, please co-sponsor, and we’ve called for co-sponsoring of HR 4494, but if ultimately another bill emerges out of it, it’s the same idea. Write to your member of Congress and say, don’t try to sweep this under the rug,” he said.

Hanna said he supports revealing the names of members of Congress who are accused of sexual harassment, but “not necessarily releasing the names of the victims.”

“That’s something for the victims to decide, but if a victim wants to have her name, his name released and is covered by a nondisclosure agreement, that nondisclosure agreement should be extinguished, and nondisclosure agreements in the future I think should be prohibited, because it’s another way of evading responsibility,” he said.

“Somebody asked me the other day, why is it all conservative groups that are in your coalition,” Hanna said. The answer, he said, is that “the conservative movement is the conscience for the body politic.”

Another bipartisan bill, the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, which was introduced last week by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and has 33 bipartisan co-sponsors, does not require unsealing congressional sexual harassment claims that used taxpayer funds for hush money. The bill has received support from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“Listen, I’m not going to let up. I understand that Speaker Ryan has a duty to his members, but he also has a duty to the taxpayer,” Nance said. “The American people are smart, and we care about character.

“We are able to sort through all sorts of information and make decisions based on what we know and make good choices in our representatives, but we can’t make those choices if we don’t have all of the information, so these members should not be shielded,” Nance added.

“The constituency can decide whether or not it warrants firing their member from their job or whether they continue to support them, but they can’t do that without the information,” she said.

Bozell said, “Ryan is flat out wrong” for supporting a bill that does not demand disclosure of those in Congress using taxpayer money to pay alleged sexual harassment victims.

“There shouldn’t be any sugar coating. There shouldn’t be any shortcuts. Just release the damn list of people. They have abused the American taxpayer dramatically. Those people who have enabled it have also done it,” he said.

“People need to be held to account, and most importantly, that money needs to be returned to the U.S. Treasury. That was hush money that was paid out. That money must be returned to the Treasury, so we need to know everything,” Bozell said. “It is important I think to protect the identity of the victims, but we should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

 

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