Office of Compliance releases secret data on payouts to congressional staffers for sexual harassment

The Congressional Office of Compliance, the office responsible for paying out claims of sexual harassment by Hill staffers, says it authorized payments totaling at least $115,000 in the last ten years.  It is believed that this represents only a fraction of the true amount the OOC has doled out.

ABC News:

Last month ABC News reported exclusively that close to $100,000 of those funds were used to settle sexual harassment claims by two young male staffers who were working for disgraced former Congressman Eric Massa. James D. Doyle, Massa's attorney in New York, said the former congressman had no knowledge of the payments to his staffers from the Office of Compliance.

In response to a request for information, the Office of Compliance sent a letter Tuesday to the Chairman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., saying in the last 10 years it awarded $342,225.85 in 15 cases ranging from accusations of sexual harassment, to sexual and racial discrimination.

The OOC claims that it is barred by law from releasing all relevant data on sexual harassment claims, including the member of Congress responsible.

Here's what is surely only a partial list of payouts:

The OOC says it has paid out $17 million over the last 20 years to settle "workplace complaints" against congressmen:

Yet there is still so much data the office will not provide, including the total amount of taxpayer dollars it used to settle accusations of sexual harassment specifically, or the identities of those lawmakers involved.

"Under current law, the OOC is not authorized to release information about individual awards and settlements," the office said in a statement.

The OOC can, however, release some limited information to its oversight committees, as it did today in the House of Representatives. That explains why Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., was rejected when he made a similar request for information on December 6th asking for details on all sexual harassment claims made against senators, members of their personal and committee staff, as well as the total settlement amounts.

Laura Cech, a spokesman for the OOC, said the compliance office released some responsive information to its oversight committee (in this case the Senate Rules Committee, not Sen. Kaine's office) and said "it's up to the committees to determine whether to release the information." That information, according to the response the Congressional Office of Compliance sent to Kaine, includes a statistical breakdown of settlement amounts involving Senate employing offices from 1997-2017.

The secretive nature of these settlements is supposedly to protect staffers making the complaints.  But why hide the name of the transgressing congressmen, too?  What right do they have to be shielded from full disclosure?

It should be noted that most congressional staff people would be extremely reluctant to report harassment or any kind of discrimination because of the detrimental effect it would have on their careers.  Even with the promise of anonymity, word is likely to get to future potential employers in Washington simply because that's how the city works.  That millions of dollars have been paid out over the last 20 years shows that the problem is almost certainly bigger than we can imagine.

Enough of this nonsense.  Protect the staffers if you must, but there is no earthly reason to protect congressmen.  A full accounting of congressional hush money payouts should be a high priority for Congress next year.

The Congressional Office of Compliance, the office responsible for paying out claims of sexual harassment by Hill staffers, says it authorized payments totaling at least $115,000 in the last ten years.  It is believed that this represents only a fraction of the true amount the OOC has doled out.

ABC News:

Last month ABC News reported exclusively that close to $100,000 of those funds were used to settle sexual harassment claims by two young male staffers who were working for disgraced former Congressman Eric Massa. James D. Doyle, Massa's attorney in New York, said the former congressman had no knowledge of the payments to his staffers from the Office of Compliance.

In response to a request for information, the Office of Compliance sent a letter Tuesday to the Chairman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., saying in the last 10 years it awarded $342,225.85 in 15 cases ranging from accusations of sexual harassment, to sexual and racial discrimination.

The OOC claims that it is barred by law from releasing all relevant data on sexual harassment claims, including the member of Congress responsible.

Here's what is surely only a partial list of payouts:

The OOC says it has paid out $17 million over the last 20 years to settle "workplace complaints" against congressmen:

Yet there is still so much data the office will not provide, including the total amount of taxpayer dollars it used to settle accusations of sexual harassment specifically, or the identities of those lawmakers involved.

"Under current law, the OOC is not authorized to release information about individual awards and settlements," the office said in a statement.

The OOC can, however, release some limited information to its oversight committees, as it did today in the House of Representatives. That explains why Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., was rejected when he made a similar request for information on December 6th asking for details on all sexual harassment claims made against senators, members of their personal and committee staff, as well as the total settlement amounts.

Laura Cech, a spokesman for the OOC, said the compliance office released some responsive information to its oversight committee (in this case the Senate Rules Committee, not Sen. Kaine's office) and said "it's up to the committees to determine whether to release the information." That information, according to the response the Congressional Office of Compliance sent to Kaine, includes a statistical breakdown of settlement amounts involving Senate employing offices from 1997-2017.

The secretive nature of these settlements is supposedly to protect staffers making the complaints.  But why hide the name of the transgressing congressmen, too?  What right do they have to be shielded from full disclosure?

It should be noted that most congressional staff people would be extremely reluctant to report harassment or any kind of discrimination because of the detrimental effect it would have on their careers.  Even with the promise of anonymity, word is likely to get to future potential employers in Washington simply because that's how the city works.  That millions of dollars have been paid out over the last 20 years shows that the problem is almost certainly bigger than we can imagine.

Enough of this nonsense.  Protect the staffers if you must, but there is no earthly reason to protect congressmen.  A full accounting of congressional hush money payouts should be a high priority for Congress next year.

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