Local Congress members move to end taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements

Congressional payoffs totaling $15 million over 20 years were kept from public view. The money -- which was for workplace discrimination settlements, including sexual harassment -- came from taxpayers.

“That's terrible,” said 1st District Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., who wants taxpayers off the hook in the future.

“We need to make sure that we are holding the people who committed these acts accountable, and not that there are taxpayer dollars or other ways that they are able to hide what has happened and have others kind of have to suffer the burden.”

The latest accusation in Congress comes against Rep. John Conyers. Documents show the Michigan congressman paid off a sex harassment settlement with $27,000 of taxpayer money. The Democrat is the longest-serving member of Congress.

“I think it's very important for us to embrace the notion that sexual harassment is wrong and that members of Congress should be held to a high standard,” said 6th District Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash.

He and DelBene both support new legislation on congressional settlements.

It's called the #MeToo Congress Act after the social media hashtag that encourages victims to tell their stories. It would end the settlements' secrecy. Congressional offices would be identified. And it would end the taxpayer-funded payoffs.

“We need transparency. We need to make sure that there aren't secret deals, that people know what has happened. It's important for others to know so that these actions do not continue and are hidden under the rug," DelBene said.

The #MeToo Congress Act has bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, but no word yet on when it will come to a vote.

By:  Essex Porter
Source: Kiro 7