A conservative-leaning watchdog group says House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are the biggest congressional scofflaws of 2018, for their anemic handling of the settlement slush fund that used an unlimited pot of taxpayer money to pay off congressional staff in exchange for signing legal papers barring them from taking public their claims of sexual harassment and other mistreatment by their congressional employers.
Congress members briefly claimed to be shocked at the victim-gagging slush fund when the media reported on it, but in reality, members of both parties in the House’s leadership oversaw it for years. The Committee on House Administration voted on each settlement and put out statistics that severely understated the scope of the problem. Former Democratic Michigan Rep. John Conyers, whose settlement sparked the initial furor, resigned, and the media moved on from the story.
A bill by then-Rep. Ron Desantis that would have named the congressmen who benefited from these payoffs in past years went nowhere, while the bill agreed to by the administration committee and the Senate is more anemic.
“Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now has an opportunity to act further and we will be encouraging her to finally bring an end to this systematic cover-up. Every day that goes by without releasing the names of Members who have received taxpayer money to settle harassment and discrimination claims is another day of cover-up and another day more innocent people are put at risk of becoming victims,” said Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). (RELATED: Here Are The Largest Congressional Payments The House Has Admitted)
FACT was once led by now-acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker.
Others on FACT’s list of worst ethics violators of 2018 include:
- Former Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, for her role in the sexual harassment scandal. When the female Democrat learned that her chief of staff was accused of “physically beating, sexually harassing and threatening to kill another one of the Congresswoman’s staff members, Esty tried to cover it up,” FACT wrote. She continued to employ him for months, then gave him a golden parachute.
- Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, who solicited campaign funds based on their involvement in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, while they were still ongoing. “Senators are prohibited from campaign fundraising tied to their official duties,” FACT wrote.
- Former Republican congressional candidate Russell Taub of Rhode Island, for operating an illegal “scam PAC” that raised and failed to distribute $1.5 million to candidates.
- Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who claimed that voting machines in Florida were tampered with by Russia. Since there is no public evidence of this, FACT said he either lied or improperly disclosed classified information.
- New York Democrat Rep. Yvette Clarke, for having 10 percent of her taxpayer-funded office budget go missing in what her own deputy chief of staff believed was a theft scheme between the chief of staff and the IT aide, Abid Awan. Since Clarke failed to take action and refused to discuss the incident publicly, she managed to win re-election by 1,000 votes. The missing funds would be enough to buy 20 iPads for every employee, and the former chief of staff, Shelley Clarke, signed off on the invoices. Clarke later had the missing items removed from the House inventory as if they never existed. (RELATED: Clarke’s Chief Of Staff Tried To Expose Suspected Theft Ring On Capitol Hill, Was Met With Resistance)
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