Sometimes a sentence really jumps out at you. “After months of debate, the House and Senate … reached a bipartisan deal to overhaul their current sexual harassment policies, which includes requiring lawmakers to pay out of pocket for some misconduct settlements,” read the article posted on Fox Business.
Yes, it evidently takes months of discussion for our elected officials to swear off the use of taxpayer money to resolve the legal consequences of their immoral personal behavior. And even then, we’re talking about only “some” settlements. What a pregnant term that is. It strongly implies that we’re dealing with a plethora of inappropriate acts by our lawmakers while letting us know that we’re still going to be on the hook for a portion of their lecherous doings.
…we’re not talking chump change here.
And, indeed, we’re not talking chump change here. Fox Business cited a 2017 report from the congressional Office of Compliance that states it has paid out more than $17 million over the past 20 years for various workplace violations, including harassment. Do they have any respect for our money at all?
Blame the Employer?
A PBS.org article detailing how widespread the problem is in state legislatures as well provides another bitter pill for taxpayers to swallow. Reporter Jen Fifield cites one David Yamada, a law professor and director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University, who explains why the legislatures themselves and not individual lawmakers should have to shell out for the sexual shenanigans.
Yamada argues that if individual wrongdoers pay, the legislature as a whole will be less inclined to provide sexual harassment training. “There are better ways to spend public money than to have to spend it to atone for the misdeeds of public servants,” Yamada acknowledges, but he then adds, “we have to hold public employers liable.”
That would be Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, of course. Apparently the American people must be held accountable for creating a toxic work environment in our places of government by electing seedy lawmakers. Can we just go ahead and mail the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a bill? After all, they’re the ones who elected Ted Kennedy to serve in the Senate for almost 50 years. It doesn’t get more toxic than that.
Hoist on Petard
News of the bill passing the House and Senate comes at a particularly inopportune time for one reputed top Democratic 2020 presidential candidate. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has been rocked by the resignation of a longtime close personal aide after The Sacramento Bee broke the story that $400,000 in California taxpayer money was used to settle a sexual harassment claim against him. Larry Wallace was accused of perpetrating several “demeaning” acts against an executive assistant, the Bee reported, “including frequently asking her to crawl under his desk to change the paper in his printer.”
Wallace was one of Harris’s “closest professional confidantes” for “more than a decade,” the Bee further reported.
Yet despite that fact, Harris asserted that she was left completely in the dark about the case and the whopping settlement on the taxpayer dime. “I’m frustrated that I wasn’t briefed,” Harris said, the Bee reports. “That’s what makes me upset about this. There’s no question I should have been informed about this. There’s no question. And there were ample opportunities when I could have been informed.”
It’s hardly a plausible scenario. And it’s especially embarrassing given Harris’s personal political brand. She was one of the leading Democrat figures to call on progressive hero Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to resign in 2017 following sexual misconduct allegations made against him.
Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) December 6, 2017
Yet here she is now asking that people believe she knew nothing about these harassment allegations and the costly settlement involved in resolving them as she kept the key personal aide on her staff. Now would be a good time to bring up a quote Harris dropped about Brett Kavanaugh in October:
"Every American is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. But nobody is entitled to a seat on the United States Supreme Court."
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) October 5, 2018
Shoe, meet the other foot.