The Senate Has Spent Over $600,000 In Taxpayer Money To Settle Misconduct Claims: Report
The U.S. Senate has spent over $600,000 in taxpayer funds to settle misconduct claims against senators, including $14,260 for a single settlement alleging sex discrimination, according to data released late Thursday, Politico reports.
The release of information on harassment payouts from a fund maintained by Capitol Hill’s Office of Compliance, cames as the Senate Rules and Appropriations Committees faced pressure from both sides of the aisle to join the House in opening the Senate’s taxpayer-funded settlement books amid a national outcry over sexual harassment.
The committees’ representatives said in a statement accompanying the information that aides had met with the Senate Legal Counsel’s office to verify that the data could be released to the public without compromising the identity of harassment victims who participated in a confidential settlement process.
“While the Rules Committee has been eager to provide this information in a transparent manner, it has been our priority to protect the victims involved in these settlements from further harm,” Shelby said, according to the report.
Earlier this month, the House released its own harassment settlement data for the past five years, including an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement linked to Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold.
Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) attempt to obtain similar Senate information was rejected earlier this week, however, the House released further data on past harassment settlements, forcing the Senate to release its own figures.
“This is the first step toward a more transparent reporting system for harassment in Congress to hold people accountable for their actions,” Kaine said in a statement on the Rules and Appropriations committees’ release of the data.
The data released Thursday also revealed that, over the past 20 years, Congress has paid out $853,225 in public money to resolve claims of misconduct.
West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R), a senior member of the Rules panel, said earlier Thursday that she supports the release of the Senate harassment settlement data because “transparency is the best way to figure out how to handle situations, and the American people want to know.”
“We could mirror the way the House has done it, without full disclosure, but even then I think people are going to keep asking the question” of which members may be tied to settlements, Capito added. “I would.”