Politico on Friday identified Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) as the congressman who used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment claim.
Just one legislator has tapped into a congressional fund to settle a sexual harassment claim since 2013, according to a list released Friday by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), chairman of the Committee on House Administration. The fund can be used to settle lawsuits levied against lawmakers.
INBOX: House Administration Committee releases info on settlements made by lawmakers’ offices since fiscal year 2013: pic.twitter.com/AQO9UhTQT9
— Ed O’Keefe (@edatpost) December 1, 2017
Congress declined to name the person connected to the $84,000. But according to a Politico report published Friday, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) is the legislator behind the settlement.
In a lawsuit filed in 2014, Lauren Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director, accused the congressman of harassing her. A Farenthold aide told Greene the lawmaker had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her, the lawsuit said, according to Politico. The lawsuit also claimed Farenthold bragged about a female lobbyist propositioning him for a threesome and told Green she “could show her nipples whenever she wanted to,” Politico reported.
When Greene complained, she says she was fired.
Further litigating this case would come at great expense to all involved ― including the taxpayers.
Rep. Blake Farenthold’s statement on his settlement with a former staffer
The two later settled for an undisclosed amount. In a statement prepared at the time, Farenthold denied wrongdoing and said he settled because “it became clear that further litigating this case would come at great expense to all involved ― including the taxpayers.” Farenthold also mentioned taxpayers in another part of the statement, saying he believed the solution saved taxpayers money.
In a statement, Farenthold told HuffPost he could neither confirm nor deny he was the legislator connected to the $84,000.
“While I 100% support more transparency with respect to claims against members of Congress, I can neither confirm nor deny that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question,” he said.
In an interview Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he is reviewing whether the taxpayer-funded settlements should stay secret. He indicated they may need to, in order to protect victims.
“There are victim-rights issues here as well, so this is not as simple as it seems because of victims,” he said.
Ryan also said he had an opinion on whether taxpayers should be funding these settlements at all, and would make it known “very soon.”
The House passed legislation Wednesday making it mandatory for members of Congress and their staff to take sexual harassment prevention training.
The change comes as an ever-growing group of powerful men in media and politics have been called out for harassing women. Several women have accused Sen. Al Franken (D-M.N.) of sexual misconduct, including one who says he groped her and kissed her without her consent. And Alabama Republican judge Roy Moore ― who is hoping to take a Senate seat in an upcoming special election ― faces allegations of preying on teen girls. One woman says Moore groped and assaulted her when she was 16.
“I believe those allegations [against Moore] are credible,” Ryan told NPR.
The list of payouts released Friday also includes $76,000 for an age discrimination claim and more than $35,000 for a disability discrimination claim.
Earlier this year, Farenthold caught flak when he said if the three female Republican senators who opposed a bill to repeal Obamacare were men, he “might ask him to step outside” and challenge them to a duel.
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