New information from the Office of Compliance (OOC) shows that taxpayers have paid $199,000 to settle sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill in the last decade. The new amount includes details given to Representative Greg Harper, chairman of the House Administration Committee, by the OOC showing that $115,000 was paid in sexual harassment claims between 2008 and 2012.
NBC News reports that on Tuesday, the OOC released five years of information, adding to what has already been made public, including an $84,000 settlement made on behalf of Representative Blake Farenthold. “The new details were being shared with the rest of the Republican House conference during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning,” NBC News noted. The new numbers were released by Harper and his committee but did not include names of the accused nor detailed information about allegations or the settlements. The numbers also do not include the settlement made by Representative John Conyers who settled a sexual harassment claim without the involvement of the OOC.
The latest numbers show the broader problem of tracking down sexual harassment complaints and subsequent settlements in Congress. The current system of reporting is notoriously opaque with virtually no public accountability for elected officials. Talking Points Memo reports that on Tuesday morning the OOC denied Senator Tim Kaine’s request for the numbers of claims filed against senators or their staff, as well as resolutions and the amount paid in settlements, all outlined in a December 6 letter. OCC director Susan Tsui Grundmann responded that she had provided the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with a “statistical breakdown,” but was unable to elaborate. “That information represents the full extent of what we can provide with regard to settlements,” Grundmann wrote in her letter to Kaine.
Grundmann’s letter to Kaine echoed her response to Harper in the House, indicating that she was unable to provide details on sexual harassment settlements because of confidentiality rules. Harper said that he plans on requesting similar numbers for 1997 to 2007 prior to rolling out legislation aimed at reforming the way Congress addresses sexual harassment and assault.