The number of sexual harassment complaints arising recently from congressional misconduct is alarming. So, too, are revelations that more than $15 million of taxpayer funds have been secretly paid since 1995 to protect harassers.
Fortunately, U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, is among those stepping up to end the “hush fund” practice.
The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act would stop the use of taxpayer money for sexual harassment settlements and disclose payments previously made by the Office of Compliance, while still protecting the identity of any victims.
The recently introduced bill would also require all past sexual harassment or sexual assault settlements to be paid back and, going forward, would allow victims to speak about their claims, regardless of any nondisclosure agreement they may have signed.
If there is an issue that should be bipartisan, it’s this one. It would be hard to imagine any member of Congress voting against the bill — unless they have something to hide.
To his credit, Latta also is a co-sponsor of legislation, approved by the House last week, that would require sexual harassment training for all members of Congress and staff.
He has already completed the training himself and said last week that his staff was in the process of doing the same. That’s setting the right example.
The training should be mandatory for all, and members of Congress should not be able to meet their obligation simply by sending a staffer on their behalf.
Latta said the current system used to address sexual harassment lacks transparency, protects harassers, and dissuades victims from coming forward. That system also punishes taxpayers who are forced to pay for the bad behavior of members of Congress or staff.
Certainly, Americans shouldn’t be on the hook for settlements, and victims must have the ability to have their claims heard, not hidden. The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act would end a flawed practice that should have never been created in the first place. There seems no reason to delay its passage.