Ever since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, countless men have been accused of sexual misconduct that ranges from verbal harassment, assault, rape, and child molestation. It’s common knowledge that such abuse isn’t just a problem in Hollywood but in our society as a whole. And in recent days, it’s been made clear that it’s a problem in politics.
For the past two weeks, we’ve heard several allegations made against GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Multiple women have accused him of making sexual advances when they were teenagers and he was in his 3os. One even accused him of attempted rape.
On Thursday morning, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was accused of groping and forcibly kissing a woman in 2006. There’s an argument to be made that if Congress has been vocal about blocking and expelling a potential senator for years-old allegations that the same standard should be applied to a sitting senator.
While the media has been primarily focused on such titillating headlines, there hasn’t been nearly enough focus on the recent revelation that Congress has paid a whopping $15 million in sexual harassment and discrimination settlements over the past 20 years. And that was reported to cover 260 settlements. The fund was established back in 1995 when the Congressional Accountability Act was passed and the Office of Compliance was created. The money itself came from the U.S. Treasury, aka the taxpayers.
Here is the break down of the number of harassment settlements and the amount of money awarded each year:
Congressional Office of Compliance releases year-by-year breakdown of harassment settlements and awards: pic.twitter.com/vxbezi22wb
— Reid Wilson (@PoliticsReid) November 16, 2017
After Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) came forward that huge figure a the hearing on sexual harassment, Speaker Paul Ryan announced a “mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training” for all Members of Congress and their staff.
With all due respect, that’s not enough.
Whether it was the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, the Obama administration, or even the Trump administration, the lack of transparency has been an ongoing problem. It’s one thing not to disclose information on impending investigations from alleged Trump/Russia collusion to the controversies surrounding Hillary Clinton. It’s another thing when hundreds of settlements were made all thanks to U.S. taxpayers.
It wasn’t long ago that we were all completely floored when we heard that Bill O’Reilly reportedly paid a $32 million sexual harassment settlement a month before his contract was renegotiated at Fox News. Sure, O’Reilly lost his show last spring, apparently over other settlements his network made to other women, but it wasn’t until last month that he was dropped by his literary and talent agencies. And of course, this was all embarrassing for Fox News for ostensibly trying to brush it all under the rug and for the seeming hypocrisy by some of their hosts when they went after NBC News for burying the Weinstein story.
Now let’s compare that to what’s going on in Congress. Instead of O’Reilly, it’s elected officials who were accused of predatory/bigoted behavior. And instead of Fox News, it’s Congress trying to cover it up with our money!
If our culture is going to right its wrongs on how it has handled workplace harassment of women over the years, then we to have an honest discussion about it. Many of the cockroaches in Hollywood are already being exposed. We’re re-litigating the allegations made against Bill Clinton and Donald Trump and the general public just found out about George H.W. Bush‘s serial groping. And after the $15 million we paid for these creeps to keep their jobs, it’s time for us to put a spotlight on Congress and demand our elected officials to purge the creeps among them.
No matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, black or white, man or woman, or a current leader in Congress, if you abused your power in any way, you must face the consequences. There should be a bipartisan call for transparency and accountability and if we don’t get it, then shame on us for re-electing these cowards.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.