Today, the House Ethics Committee, led by Republicans, demanded that disgraced Texas congressman, Blake Farenthold, who stepped down Friday, pay back the $84,000 in taxpayer money he used to settle a sexual harassment claim leveled against him by his former communications director.
Rather than face a rigorous ethics investigation, the results of which were to be released yesterday, Farenthold finally resigned on Friday after months of resistance.
Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana and Ted Deutch of Florida released a statement, saying the panel “no longer has jurisdiction” over Farenthold and would therefore be dropping their probe.
We note Representative Farenthold publicly promised to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for $84,000 in funds paid to settle the lawsuit brought against him for claims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation. We encourage him in the strongest possible terms to uphold that promise.
Farenthold must now repay the settlement funds disbursed by the Congressional Office of Compliance when the former congressman’s then-employee’s complaint first came to light.
The entire system of paying such settlements with taxpayer funds, keeping sexual misconduct an internal secret that protects perpetrators more than victims, has come under fire in light of the #MeToo movement, causing congressional leadership to demand that lawmakers now pay their own settlements.
Farenthold’s fall signals a sea change in how Congress will now handle sexual harassment claims.
Keep making noise, survivors. It’s working.