Judge Moore: Was that the sound of Pandora's box being opened?
The recent Weinstein, Moore, and Franken scandals have the establishment and the media in a frenzy. Weinstein had displayed his objectionable behavior for decades. It might be curious why it suddenly came to light. The allegations against Moore only came to light in the last days of his campaign for the Senate. This is understandable. The establishment has spent millions in an attempt to defeat him. He is a definite threat to their order. Franken appears to be collateral damage. In fact, Franken is an example of friendly fire. How many casualties can the establishment sustain? We will probably be finding out.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier told Chuck Todd on MSNBC that the House paid out $15 million in harassment settlements in the past ten to fifteen years. Actually, the Congress's Office of Compliance put the figure at more than $17 million. Not all of these settlements were for sexual harassment. The settlements are classified and not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. Tracy Manzer, Speier's spokesperson, told CNN that 80 percent of people who have come to her office to share stories of sexual misconduct never told the Office of Compliance. Speier charged, "Congress created the Office of Compliance to protect itself from being exposed." The current law forces victims to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
The 17-million-dollar figure is only the tip of an iceberg. It does not include non-monetary settlements: "Here's that promotion I promised you." It does not include cash payments made out of the harasser's own pocket. Former high school wrestling coach and House speaker Dennis Hastert was apparently willing to pay $3.5 million to ensure the silence of a former victim. There is also the fear factor. Informing on your boss might not be a smart career move. Speier knows the names of two sitting members but will not release the names because "the victims are the ones who do not want this exposed."
There are several incidences that have made national news. The Mark Foley page scandal of September 2006 possibly led to the Republicans' loss of control over Congress in the November 2006 elections. That was extremely convenient timing. Foley was sending sexually suggestive emails to teenage boys who had formerly served as congressional pages. House speaker Dennis Hastert had apparently covered for Foley as long as he could. He was accused of a cover-up in the Foley incident. Another Republican congressman, Jim Kolbe, may also have been involved in improper conduct at the time. There is no need to elaborate on the recent problems of Anthony Weiner.
Sexual harassment may be much more widespread than the public is aware of. Members of Congress may feel invulnerable. Their colleagues would be reluctant to expose them because it would bring discredit to the institution – or they may also be involved in questionable behavior like House speaker Dennis Hastert. Their allies in the media are also reluctant to publicize the faults of people they socialize with and use as sources.
The floodgates, however, may be about to break open. There are people in power who encouraged this movement. Movements sometimes spin out of control, and there are plenty examples of revolutions eating their children.
John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (Algora Publishing). He has a Master of Arts degree in international relations from St. Mary's University. He is retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.