Hawaii lawmaker aims to quash ‘hush fund’ that settles sexual allegations in Congress

On Capitol Hill, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has introduced a measure that would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to settle sexual misconduct claims against members of Congress.

Since 1990, the government says its paid out more than $17 million to settle claims against Congress members, though it’s unclear how much of that money was related to sexual assault or sexual harassment allegations.

What’s also unclear is who is accused of misconduct, since those names are kept confidential.

Gabbard’s bill seeks to make them public.

“For too long survivors of sexual harassment and assault has been isolated, shamed and bullied into silence while their abusers walk away scot-free with the privilege of anonymity and with no personal or financial accountability,” she said. “Congress needs to act now to end the practice of taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements, expose perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault, and provide a fair and transparent path to justice for survivors. This behavior is absolutely unacceptable. It has no place in Congress or in our society. It must end.”

The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act aims to:

  • Require disclosure within 30 calendar days of all settlement payments funded by taxpayers, the reason for the payment and the nature of the allegation, and the member of Congress or congressional staffer implicated in the matter.
  • Prohibit the future use of taxpayer dollars to pay sexual harassment and sexual assault claims against members of Congress and staff.
  • Prohibit members of Congress from using office budgets to camouflage payments.
  • Require members of Congress and staff that have ever been named in a sexual harassment or sexual assault settlement paid for by taxpayers reimburse the U.S. Treasury with interest.
  • Any individual who received an award may make public statements about the claims notwithstanding the terms of a nondisclosure agreement and nondisclosure agreements cannot be made a condition of any future settlements.

Original cosponsors include Jack Bergman (MI-01), Marsha Blackburn (TN-07), Dave Brat (VA-07), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Jim Cooper (TN-05), John Delaney (MD-06), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Jody Hice (GA-10), Mike Johnson (LA-04), Walter Jones (NC-03), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Luke Messer (IN-06), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Gary Palmer (AL-06), Steve Pearce (R-NM-02), Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Todd Rokita (IN-04), Francis Rooney (FL-19), Thomas Rooney (FL-17), and Brad Schneider (IL-10).

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