Pingree Pushes Bill to End Taxpayer Funded Secret Harassment Settlements, Require Disclosure of Past Payments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In light of revelations that Congress has spent $17 million in order to settle 260 harassment scandals since 1997, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has cosponsored legislation to eliminate this unethical hush fund and reveal details of past secret settlements.
“Buying silence with taxpayer money is flat-out corrupt. It’s sad that we need an act of Congress to get to the bottom of these secret settlements and hold perpetrators accountable, but apparently that’s what it takes,” said Pingree. “The bill I’ve cosponsored would ensure taxpayers know how their money was spent and require those who used this hush fund to pay the public back with interest.”
Pingree is one of 33 original cosponsors of the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act, introduced by Representatives DeSantis, Blackburn, Cooper, Gabbard, and Rice. Pingree is also a cosponsor of Representative Speier’s Me Too bill to reform the Office of Compliance and H. Res 630 to mandate anti-harassment training in Congress, which unanimously passed the House yesterday.
The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act would:
- Prohibit the use of public funds to pay settlements or awards for sexual harassment or assault claims;
- Disclose all payments previously made by the Office of Compliance on its website (the name of the victim is expressly prohibited from being disclosed);
- Require perpetrators to reimburse the taxpayers with interest;
- Prohibit nondisclosure agreements as a precondition to initiate procedures to address sexual harassment or assault claims; and
- Permit victims of sexual harassment or assault to make public statements about their claim, regardless of any previously signed nondisclosure agreement.
SUMMARY OF THE CONGRESSIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND HUSH FUND ELIMINATION ACT
PROHIBITING USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS TO PAY SETTLEMENT CLAIMS WHICH ARISE FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Prohibits the use of public funds for settlements in connection with acts of sexual harassment or sexual assault. This prohibition covers the use of any funds from the Treasury, a House or Senate account, or any other account within the federal government. This prohibition becomes effective on the date of enactment.
REPORT BY OFFICE OF COMPLIANCE
No less than 30 days after enactment, the Office of Compliance shall make available to the public on its website a report on all payments with public funds prior to date of enactment. The report shall include: the amount paid for each settlement; the source of the public funds; and the identification of the employing office and the individual who committed the violation.
REPAYMENT BY PERPETRATORS
Each individual who committed an act of sexual harassment or sexual assault and settled with public money at any time after the enactment after the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 shall make a payment to the Treasury equal to the amount of the award increased by an interest rate equal to the interest rate for a Federal Direct PLUS Loan on the date the settlement was paid.
PROHIBITING IMPOSITION OF NONDISCLSOURE AGREEMENTS AS A PREREQUISITE FOR PROCEDURES
Prohibits the requirement of a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of initiation of any procedures addressing sexual harassment or sexual assault claims.
TREATMENT OF EXISTING AGREEMENTS
Any individual who received an award or settlement prior to the date of enactment of this Act in connection with a violation of the Congressional Accountability Act which consisted of a sexual harassment or sexual assault claim and who signed a nondisclosure agreement may make public any information related to the award or settlement.