Secret $100,000 congressional fund paid off males who accused staffers of harassment

ABC News reports that a secret congressional slush fund run by the Congressional Office of Compliance paid nearly $100,000 to two male staffers who accused a disgraced congressman of sexual harassment.

The congressman, Democrat Eric Massa, resigned in 2010 as an ethics investigation into sexual misconduct got underway.  The money was part of $17 million paid out by the Office of Compliance over the last twenty years to settle claims of sexual harassment by members.

"This is exactly why there should be transparency," said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., who blasted the payouts in an interview with ABC News. Rice, who is co-sponsoring legislation that would remove secrecy from the payouts, added, "There is no reason why these settlements, these accusations should be done in secret once they're adjudicated."

ABC News reports that a secret congressional slush fund run by the Congressional Office of Compliance paid nearly $100,000 to two male staffers who accused a disgraced congressman of sexual harassment.

The congressman, Democrat Eric Massa, resigned in 2010 as an ethics investigation into sexual misconduct got underway.  The money was part of $17 million paid out by the Office of Compliance over the last twenty years to settle claims of sexual harassment by members.

"This is exactly why there should be transparency," said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., who blasted the payouts in an interview with ABC News. Rice, who is co-sponsoring legislation that would remove secrecy from the payouts, added, "There is no reason why these settlements, these accusations should be done in secret once they're adjudicated."

When asked for comment on the specific settlements paid to Massa’s staffers, a spokesman for the Office of Compliance would neither confirm nor deny any of the terms, saying they are required by law to keep those records secret.

The Office of Compliance, now in the spotlight amid new bombshell accusations of sexual harassment by sitting members of Congress, says it has paid out more than $17 million in taxpayer dollars over 20 years to settle workplace complaints in the halls of Congress

That revelation, first provided by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who now is leading an effort to reform the claims process in Congress, set off a fierce public backlash about the process by which Congress handles its own cases of harassment and its use of taxpayer money to secretly settle those claims.

The 1995 Congressional Accountability Act gave the Office of Compliance the ability to use taxpayer dollars from the Department of Treasury to settle harassment claims against members of Congress.

As Congress and the rest of the American workforce faces a cultural reckoning around the issue, Rep. Rice and a bipartisan group of House members introduced legislation this week that would require Congress to disclose the names of any members whose cases of sexual harassment cases are settled with taxpayer funds.

As of now, there is no way to know how many cases resemble those of the staffers who were allegedly harassed by Massa. Congress says the $17 million it's paid out has been used in 264 individual cases, but it’s not clear how many of those cases dealt specifically with sexual harassment. The Office of Compliance will not release that data.

Only in the U.S. Congress could it be the law that the purpose of spending taxpayer money to cover up wrongdoing by members is hidden from the public.

I am not confident that any measures taken by Congress to police itself will be effective.  The Ethics Committee has a history of letting members off easy for serious violations.  Congressmen carve out exemptions for themselves for almost every law that the rest of us must obey.  And for at least twenty years, members have not had to endure the consequences of their harassment and abuse because of a secret fund used to silence their accusers.

"Training" members and staffers to develop a sensitivity to inappropriate behavior is a waste of time.  How can you reach adulthood and not know what sexual harassment means?  Or know the difference between right and wrong? 

Members of Congress are supposed to be the best and brightest among us.  Instead, they are lecherous cretins with the morals of alley cats.  I would make every single member who has been bailed out by taxpayer money for his groping be made to walk the plank of public humiliation and either resign or go down to defeat in the next election.

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