(CNSNews.com) - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNSNews.com on Thursday that she supports revealing the names of members of Congress who benefited from taxpayer-funded sexual harassment payoffs if the victim agrees to make it public.
CNSNews.com asked Pelosi if she supports legislation that requires revealing the names of congressmen who previously used taxpayer dollars to pay off sexual harassment victims.
“I do believe that there’s an equity that has to be weighed there," said Pelosi. "Do the victims want that to be known? Yes, I think that the public should know if a member of Congress has had public funds to resolve it, but when you do that, then the victims say, well I’m not necessarily in favor of my whole situation being made known."
“So that’s the calibration I would say," she said. "So, if you do that without harming the victims, that’s something important to talk about, but I do think that the idea as we go forward, people have to know that we don’t want to deter victims from coming forward, because they don’t want to be in the public domain. So, we have to take that into consideration. But I think the public would like to know, and I respect that."
When asked if she supports the bill by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), H.R. 4494, the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act, which calls for revealing the names of members of Congress, Pelosi said, “Well, I just said I would have to see what that means to the victims.
“Yes, I think that the elected officials, the members of Congress should be held accountable. I don’t want to harm the victims who may say I entered into a confidentiality agreement, and it was in my interest to do so as well,” she said.
“You understand my point," she said. "So, I think there’s a way that we can write a bill--I don’t know the particulars of his bill except as you describe it, and I know about it, but I do think there’s a bill that can be written that takes into consideration the rights, the privacy, the harm done to a victim if we just opened all of that up."
“And maybe it can--I don’t know, if a member is charged with something how clear is the path back to the victim. In some cases very clear. In other cases maybe not,” she added.
“You have to take into consideration what it means to the victim," she said. "So I think--you asked me about a specific bill. I’m saying, I think there’s possibly legislation that says that anybody who has done this or does it in the future, this will be made known to the public as long as the victim agrees to that."
“And you would support that?” CNSNews.com asked Pelosi.
“Yeah, for sure,” Pelosi said.
When DeSantis introduced his bill in November 2017, it included a provision which protects the identity of the victim:
“In preparing and submitting the report required under paragraph (1), the Office of Compliance shall ensure that the identity of any individual who received an award or settlement, or who made an allegation of a violation against an employing office, is not disclosed,” the text of the bill said.
The DeSantis bill also called for Congress to make public the amount paid, the source of the public funds, and the name of the “individual who committed the violation:”
"(A) The amount paid for each such award or settlement; (B) The source of the public funds used for the award or settlement, without regard to whether the funds were paid from the account described in section 415(a) of such Act (2 U.S.C. 1415(a)), an account of the House of Representatives or Senate, or any other account of the Federal Government; and (C) The identification of the employing office involved and any individual who committed the violation involved."
DeSantis announced on Feb. 6, 2018 that the transparency provisions from his bill were included in the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act (H.R. 4822), sponsored by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), which does not reveal the names of members who used taxpayer funds in the past to settle sexual harassment cases.
However, the new Harper bill calls for the Office of Compliance to make details of the settlement public, including the amount paid for each settlement and the source of the public funds, but does not require disclosure of the name of the member of Congress who used the funds.
The new version of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act (H.R. 4924) cleared the House on Feb. 5, 2018 and was referred on Feb. 7, 2018 to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.