Less than a year after Corpus Christi Republican Blake Farenthold left Congress behind with an $84,000 settlement for sexual harassment, the House and Senate have agreed to make lawmakers pay their own misconduct judgments.
The legislation, which the House and Senate each passed unanimously on Thursday, caps a year of acrimonious debate over how to handle sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill.
Under the terms of a bipartisan deal reached this week, members of the House and Senate would assume financial liability for settlements and judgments stemming from sexual harassment complaints. Historically, taxpayers have picked up the tab.
The issue came to a head last April when Farenthold, a four-term congressman, resigned amid an Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of improper conduct by at least three former staffers. That followed revelations that Congress had already covered an $84,000 settlement reached in a 2014 harassment suit brought by Lauren Greene, his former communications director.
The payment came to light last December only after House administrators, under pressure in the early months of the #MeToo era, agreed to release summary data on payouts involving Capitol Hill offices.
While denying any personal wrongdoing in the case, Farenthold initially vowed to repay taxpayers. He later reneged, however, on the “advice of counsel.”
He also refused a request by Gov. Greg Abbott to help defray the estimated $200,000 in expenses for the special election prompted by his early departure. Victoria Republican Mike Cloud was elected to replace him.
Farenthold later took a job lobbying for the Calhoun Port Authority, a move that sparked further controversy because of his involvement as a member of Congress in trying to steer a contract to Randy Boyd, the port’s chairman.
Campaign finance reports also showed that Farenthold, who had a net worth in the millions, spent more than $100,000 from his campaign account on legal bills before and after the Ethics probe.
From the bottom of my heart, Blake: Go fuck yourself.