House Ethics Cmte. Request Records Of Alleged Misconduct By Sitting Members

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., speaks during a hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, in Washington, April 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP

The House Ethics Committee has asked the office responsible for paying out settlements to staffers who allege misconduct against lawmakers for records of the complaints made against sitting House members and employees.

In a letter to the Office of Compliance Friday, Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) asked for all records related to claims of “sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation or any other practice” prohibited by the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) made against any current “member, delegate, resident commissioner, officer or employee” of the House. The CAA prohibits harassment and discrimination within the House and any actions that have a “disparate impact” on an employee, according to the House code of conduct.

Brooks and Deutch said that the CAA “expressly provides that the Office of Compliance may provide the House and Senate Ethics Committees with access to records of its hearings and decisions” and House rules against “discriminatory conduct” also give the ethics committee authority to review the records.

“In order to effectuate its constitutional and statutory authority with respect to House Rules we request that you promptly provide the committee” with information about the complaints, they wrote.

The Office of Compliance has recently come under fire after it was revealed that it has paid more than $17 million in taxpayer dollars over the past two decades to settle claims against members of Congress. This news that has been met with special scrutiny given the rise in public accusations of misconduct against politicians and many other prominent men in the media and Hollywood.

In recent weeks, sitting Congressmen Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) have been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women.

Five women have come forward saying Franken groped them and Franken has apologized, but said he won’t resign.

Conyers has been accused of sexual harassment by former staffers, but has denied all the allegations, including an account from one woman whom he paid a $27,00 settlement. He paid that settlement through his congressional office, not the Office of Compliance. His lawyers have also indicated that he won’t resign.

The 1995 Congressional Accountability Act gave the compliance office the authority to use taxpayer dollars from the Department of the Treasury to settle claims against lawmakers. That $17 million was spent on 264 individual cases, but it’s not known whether all those cases dealt with sexual harassment claims.

The Office of Compliance did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

Read the letter below:

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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