Walker Co-Sponsors Bill to Force Public Disclosure of Congressional Sexual Harassment Cases and End Taxpayer-Funded Settlements
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) today co-sponsored the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act. This legislation would eliminate the congressional "hush fund," require public disclosures of sexual harassment claims from members of Congress and staff, and prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to pay future sexual harassment or sexual assault claims.
“This is a moral injustice,” Walker said. “The existence of a secret hush fund that uses taxpayer money to settle sexual misconduct from members of Congress highlights exactly why people don’t trust Washington. We need to eliminate this abhorrent process immediately and create a system where members of Congress are held to the same standard as the people they represent."
Since 1997, the Office of Compliance has paid out more than $17 million in taxpayer funds to settle claims, including sexual harassment claims, on behalf of members of Congress and congressional staff. The settlements are kept private, and the names of the members of Congress and/or staffers are kept secret. This bill would change that.
The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act will:
- 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.
The bipartisan legislation, introduced by U.S. Representatives Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), can be read here.