Taxpayers Paying Sexual Harassment Settlements For Members Of Congress

Your tax dollars at work.

Capitol Daytime

A new report indicates that American taxpayers have paid out at least $200,000 in settlement of sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill:

WASHINGTON — New details released Tuesday show that taxpayers paid an additional $115,000 to settle sexual harassment complaints in Congress from 2008 to 2012, adding to the growing amount of such claims on Capitol Hill.

The latest information was given to Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., chairman of the House Administration Committee, by the Office of Compliance, where victims file complaints. The five years of information had not been made public before, and it was being shared with the rest of the Republican House conference during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning.

Adding to a previously disclosed claim of $84,000 that was settled from 2013 to 2017, the new figures bring the total of sexual harassment settlements the office has made since 2008 to $199,000. That earlier settlement was for a complaint against Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who subsequently announced he will not seek re-election.

But the release of information on such claims and settlements has been piecemeal in Congress. In the Senate, the OOC refused a request from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., to release information on how many sexual harassment claims had been filed and how many settled.

The numbers were released Tuesday as part of an effort by Harper’s committee to get a handle on sexual harassment in the halls of Congress. The committee is set to unveil bipartisan legislation this week to reform a system that is tilted to protect the accused over complainants.

The information did not include the names of victims or those accused, nor did it include other ways members of Congress can settle claims, including with individual congressional funds, which is how John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who resigned from the House this month, settled a $27,000 sexual harassment complaint.

“As I have stated from the beginning of this review, one case of sexual harassment is one too many,” Harper said in a statement. “We must create a culture within our Capitol Hill community that instills in every employee and employer, new and old, that there is no place for sexual harassment in the halls of Congress.”

Harper said he intends to obtain the information for 1997 to 2007 as well.

Susan Grundmann, executive director of the OOC, told Harper in a letter accompanying the new totals that the OOC is unable to provide detailed information about the settlements because of confidentiality constraints.

“Nevertheless, we have endeavored to respond to your inquiry to the fullest extent possible under the current statutory scheme, and we hope that the enclosed information proves helpful,” Grundmann wrote.

The actual amount of settlements paid out most likely tops this figure since it doesn’t include settlements paid out of funds given to individual members to operate their offices or other potential sources of money. So far, we have no idea which Members of Congress or the Senate benefited from these payments, although it has been reported in the past that settlements of this type have been paid out on behalf of members from both sides of the aisle, including Texas Republican Blake Farenthold, who announced that he will not be running for re-election, and Michigan Congressman John Conyers, who resigned from Congress earlier this month. Beyond that, though, the list remains a mystery.

Ideally, of course, the American taxpayer should not be paying sexual harassment settlements for public officials such as Members of Congress or members of their staff. These funds ought to come out of their own personal funds and be their own responsibility. In either case, though, any such settlements should be made public and the elected officials or staff members identified by name. At the very least, the American public deserves to know what’s going on under the roof of Congress. This includes naming the names of Members of Congress who have been sexually harassing or assaulting members of their staff or other employees of Congress and the Senate. Anything less is, quite simply, unacceptable.

Update (12/22/2017): TodayAxios is reporting that an additional am0unt of at least $600,000 has been paid to settle sexual harassment claims arising out of the Senate.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Gender Issues, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    I’m left wondering if this was just easy money for some people…make a claim of harassment and get a check to keep quiet.
    I’m NOT saying harassment doesn’t happen on both sides of the aisle in Congress.
    But an easy pool of hush money, like this, seems ripe for abuse.

  2. the Q says:

    I think a better question is how many have been settled in the last two months since this started?

    It seems to me, a shrewd false accuser would come forward now since the need to keep these things quiet would never be more optimum for a Congressperson.

    A low key call to the Congressperson’s office to inform them of pending litigation, then a suggestion of arbitration to settle the matter privately for a small sum in the low six figures in exchange for an NDA or confidentiality agreement and voila, you can make out like a bandit.

  3. Franklin says:

    @the Q: Sounds a bit like blackmail.

  4. the Q says:

    Its total blackmail, but in this supercharged harassment environment, no one believes the accused.
    And, no matter how banal the charge (“he looked at my cleavage in 1998”), its the death penalty career-wise.

  5. Gustopher says:

    The federal government is the employer, isn’t it? Aren’t employers always on the hook for sexual harassment that their employees commit on the job?

    I’m not in favor of letting the employer off the hook here. That’s going to end up hurting the victims

    I would be ok with letting the employer sue the offender, if the employer can show that the congresscritter acted against policy, since they cannot actually fire the employee. And all of this should be much more public.

  6. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    Funny how all this concern emerges once people realize that a hell of a lot more Democrats are being taken down by this than Republicans. How astonishingly convenient, now that it’s dragged down Franken, Conyers, Hastings… have I missed any?

    Here’s a non-partisan suggestion: since Congress paid the settlements, let Congress pass a resolution releasing all parties from any and all non-disclosure agreements. If the victims want to speak out now and name names, let them do so without fear of losing their settlements.

  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Here’s a non-partisan suggestion:

    Here’s a non-partisan suggestion; you were banned, J-E-N-O-S, so go the fvck away.

    past tense: banned; past participle: banned
    1. officially exclude (someone) from a place.

  8. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: By the way, your little comment on the Turkish basketball player thread:

    This is a peak into the future, here in Trumpistan.

    Your misspelling of “peek” is actually the least stupid thing in your comment.

  9. Tyrell says:

    @the Q: No taxpayer money should be spent unless there is an investigation of the charges or accusations.
    I remember some years ago there was a lot of talk about harassment, bullying, and other sorts of abuse in the workplace. Employers, employees, and school students had to watch videos about it and we had to sign a form that we watched the video and understood. Are elected officials not aware of this?
    Another view of all of this is if this is really some plan to change elected officials without an election – removing the voters from the process. If that is the case, then who is behind it?
    I get wary when I see Attorney Alred on the news, sitting there beside another one of her clients: $$$

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Funny how all this concern emerges once people realize that a hell of a lot more Democrats are being taken down by this than Republicans. How astonishingly convenient, now that it’s dragged down Franken, Conyers, Hastings… have I missed any?

    Exactly. Funny how Republicans have no interest in Trump’s self-admitted sexual misconduct.

  11. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @al-Ameda: There’s a hell of a lot more evidence against Franken, Conyers, Hastings, Weinstein, Lauer, et al than there ever was against Trump or Moore. But that doesn’t fit your preferred fiction, does it?

    When Pervnado/Gropocalype first erupted (I don’t know which term I like better), a lot of said “this isn’t going to end well — you’re going to regret feeding it.” But we were called liars and frauds and defenders of pedophiles and worse.

    Pervnado was wonderful when it was taking down people like Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes, stopping people like Roy Moore, and was supposed to be the silver bullet that would finally get Trump. But then it got out of control and started taking down some of the biggest liberals in the entertainment business. No big deal — take out Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner (still got my fingers crossed for Dan Schneider), there are plenty more where they came from.

    Then it started taking out big names in liberal media. Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, Glenn Thrush, Michael Oreskes, Lockhart Steele. Again, no big deal. Liberals in the media are a dime a dozen. Clean out the more obvious pervs, let the next rank move up.

    But the Gropocalypse started hitting liberal politicians. Bill Clinton finally started getting a little tarnished. Al Franken, Alcee Hastings, John Conyers — it’s just getting started.

    So now a whole bunch of people are suddenly deciding that us “pedophile defenders” might have been right a while ago, and this has gotten out of hand.

    It’s always amusing when the sowers of the wind whine about the whirlwind.

  12. Mister Bluster says:

    There’s a hell of a lot more evidence against Franken, Conyers, Hastings, Weinstein, Lauer, et al than there ever was against Trump or Moore.

    Pig Trump confessed to sexually molesting women.

    “…And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
    “Grab ’em by the pussy, you can do anything,”

    But that …doesn’t fit your preferred fiction… does it.

  13. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Mister Bluster: So, just who did he grab? When? Where?

    And maybe you missed the phrase “they let you do it.” Which implies consent, which puts a damper on the “molests” thing.

    Also, I thought Trump lies about everything. How convenient that this you choose to take as literal truth — once you carefully ignore key details.

    On the other hand, Franken was kind enough to provide photographic evidence of exactly who he groped, when, and where — and it was pretty clear that she was not only not consenting, but not capable of giving consent, as she was asleep at the time.

    Conyers’ repeated sexual misconduct was so well-known that Cokie Roberts said that “everyone knew” that women shouldn’t get on an elevator with him. Cokie Roberts, legendary journalist with both ABC and NPR, didn’t think that was worth passing along to the public — a member of Congress who was literally infamous for molesting women who were careless enough to get on an elevator with him.

    So Trump can be a pig. (shrug). So could Bill Clinton, Lyndon Johnson, and Jack Kennedy. Still better than Hillary would have been.

  14. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    But back to the topic at hand. Let me repeat myself:

    Here’s a non-partisan suggestion: since Congress paid the settlements, let Congress pass a resolution releasing all parties from any and all non-disclosure agreements. If the victims want to speak out now and name names, let them do so without fear of losing their settlements.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    Clearly Trump doesn’t think so. Let’s see his tax filings.

  16. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Mister Bluster: You didn’t hear? Trump’s filings were on Hillary’s private email server.

    Maybe Anthony Weiner has some copies, along with the “yoga routines…”

  17. Tyrell says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier: “if the victims want to speak out now and name names”. I would add: “and provide proof”

  18. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Tyrell: In most cases, paying the settlement is considered an admission of guilt. Oh, it’s not, legally, and usually includes language spelling that out, but most people think “they wouldn’t pay if they were innocent.”

    But that should be up to the people who signed the non-disclosure agreement. Congress tells them “you don’t have to say or do anything, but if you want to speak out now, we won’t go after you for breaking the non-disclosure.”

    Give them the choice if they want to speak out or not.

    Hell, toss in that they can request the unsealing of all the records of the incident.

  19. Tony W says:

    @Gustopher: This is not a traditional employer/employee situation.

    Members of Congress operate essentially independently, with House and Senate administration overseeing and managing support staff, and having only limited discretion over Member behavior.

    Generally, House and Senate administration’s remedies are pretty limited when it comes to regulating Member behavior – and the caucuses have enormous sway in those decisions as well.

    Administration cannot, for example, ‘fire’ a member of Congress for misbehavior. They cannot raise or lower their pay. They cannot promote, or fail to promote a member.

    I believe, because they operate independently, they should pay their claims independently as well. If the taxpayers are going to take on liability for Congress Member’s behavior, then we need more direct administrative control over that day-to-day behavior.