(This article appears as an Op-Ed in Florida Today newspaper, this date)
“Sexual harassment fund is taxpayer-funded bribery”
What do you call it when criminals pay off cops and/or witnesses in order to prevent being arrested? Simple answer: Bribery. They lose their jobs and often go to jail.
I knew three judges in Miami in the early 1990s who took illegal pay-offs in exchange for special favors. After being caught in a sting, they went to prison for bribery.
What do you call it when Congress uses taxpayer money to muzzle: bribe someone who alleges sexual harassment and/or assault by a member or employee of the House of Representatives or the Senate? Answer: Legal process. Not only that, this “process” has been engineered by Congress itself.
That’s like passing a law saying it’s okay to break laws if we are the law breakers.
This is beyond comprehension. A law was passed by congress and signed off by President Bill Clinton in 1995, then put into effect in 1997 which not only covers allegations of sexual impropriety, but other administrative violations by employees. However, now that the secret is out, it’s pretty clear the original purpose of this funding. According to the Washington Post, a total of $17,248,854 of taxpayer funds has ostensibly been paid out as hush money settling 235 complaints since 1997.
Compliments of sleazy politicians, this abomination goes even further in humiliating and victimizing complainants. Victims of sexual assault and/or harassment must attend hearings before a panel then agree to attend extensive mediation and counseling. If that doesn’t work, the money is paid.
If such idiocy is condoned in the federal government, it could seep down to state and local levels allowing elected judges, mayors, governors and, yes, congressmen to act immorally or even, illegally providing hush money is paid. They all could create secret funds so bribery payoffs come from the taxpayers and not their own pockets. How non-transparent can it get?
There are all kinds of corruption that taint our political system, usually borne of greed and/or the lust for power. Middle class Americans who become elected to congress often leave office years later a very rich person, though their official salaries are under $200,000 a year. We all are resolved to live with that. But when women (usually) are the victims of sexual misconduct or all-out assault inside the walls of the people’s chambers, there should be zero tolerance. More than that; accountability.
Here are a few demands we the taxpayers should be making:
- Unveil how many of those 235 pay-offs since 1997 were for sexual misconduct accusations? We have a right to know.
- Who are the perpetrators of each allegation that resulted in an acknowledgement of wrong doing and a pay-out?
- Names and details should be published in newspapers and online throughout the country.
- Each perpetrator must reimburse the taxpayer 100 percent from their person finances.
- Determine which of the “acknowledged” allegations are or could be considered a felony and/or misdemeanor?
- Those acknowledging guilt (by virtue of taxpayer pay-outs) should immediately resign or be subjected to impeachment.
- The same process of disclosure must be applied to any government representatives who chose to present hush money to alleged victims of sexual harassment from their taxpayer funded office budgets, as did Rep. John Conyers in 2015, according to a report from Buzzfeed News.
This all has nothing to do with political parties, Democrats or Republicans. Both sides own their share of guilt. But if these demands are actually met, I fear we would have the greatest government crisis of all time, with many empty seats in the House and Senate, and a state of utter confusion in Washington.
Regardless of power or position, no man or woman is above the law, or immune to standards of morality. The audacity that congress could allow funding to justify bribery to protect their own butts is disgusting.
Those affected might like to drag it out until it becomes distant history. That must not happen. It needs resolution now.