A congressional office paid young male staffers of former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) almost $100,000 to settle groping allegations against the congressman, ABC News reported Thursday.
The settlements were secretly paid by the Office of Compliance after Massa resigned in 2010 amid an ongoing ethics probe into allegations that he sexually harassed some of his staffers, people with direct knowledge of the settlement told ABC.
The office responsible for the payouts 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 sexual misconduct claims against members of Congress. Those revelations, first made public by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), prompted efforts to reform the way sexual misconduct claims are reported and handled in Congress.
Since then, it’s been widely reported that 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 compliance office will not release the data and would not confirm or deny to ABC whether it had paid $100,000 in settlements to Massa accusers.
After Massa resigned in 2010, he said that he had engaged inappropriate behavior with some staffers, but none of it was sexual. In an interview with Fox News he admitted he had “groped” and “tickled” one of his staffers.
“Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me,” he told Glenn Beck in 2010. “It was my 50th birthday. It was ‘kill the old guy.’ You can take anything out of context.”
Watch the interview with Massa and then-Fox News host Glenn Beck below: