Details emerge on settlements paid with taxpayer dollars by Congress

Credit: Jamie Dupree

Credit: Jamie Dupree

With a Congressional hearing set for Thursday before a U.S. House committee, some details have come forward in recent days on human resources settlements involving members of Congress, which were paid with taxpayer dollars, as lawmakers in both parties said it was time to expose the full details to the public.

In a letter to the head of the Committee on House Administration - which oversees operations of the House of Representatives - officials detailed legal settlements over the last five years involving Congressional offices and committees, detailing a total of six claims in that time.

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), who chairs that panel, said while reports have indicated a total of $17 million in legal claims during the last five years involving the Legislative Branch, just $359,450 of that directly involved lawmakers.

Here is the data that pertains to lawmakers in the House:

Credit: Jamie Dupree

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Credit: Jamie Dupree

Published reports in recent days have quickly ferreted out some of those details, and which lawmakers were linked to those legal settlements.

As for the "1 claim that alleged sexual harassment," which involved a payout of $84,000, that reportedly was Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who had previously been the subject of news reports about possible sexual harassment troubles involving his Congressional staff.

The next four claims against Congressional offices listed in the letter to Rep. Harper have not yet been identified publicly, involving age discrimination, discrimination based on sex and religion, disability discrimination, and a case dealing with race.

As for the veteran status discrimination case worth $150,000, reports quickly identified that as being part of a legal battle involving the House panel which investigated the Benghazi attacks.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who chaired the Benghazi panel, has made no public comment on reports that $150,000 in taxpayer money was used to settle a claim involving staffer Bradley Podliska, who had sued the committee for wrongful termination.

As for more explosive charges that Congress has been repeatedly - and secretly - paying out large monetary settlements involving sexual harassment with taxpayer dollars, the data released so far does not seem to support that allegation.

At a news conference last week, Harper said most of the financial settlements seem to involve other issues - he gave examples from 2002, or settlements for workers in Congress who dealt with exposure to asbestos, or exposure to anthrax, after that substance was mailed to Senate offices a year earlier.

Harper has promised to reveal more details at Tuesday's hearing.

"First and foremost, there is no place for sexual harassment in our society, and especially in Congress, and one case of sexual harassment is one case too many," said Harper.

In a letter to the administrative office that deals with legal claims against Congress, the House Ethics Committee last week requested all information on cases involving lawmakers.

"In addition to federal law, House Rules have long prohibited discriminatory conduct in employment," wrote the top Republican and Democrat on the ethics panel.

It was unclear if these cases would spur any further ethics investigations.

Harper said this past week that in the time he has been the chairman of the House Administration panel - since the start of 2017 - not one settlement agreement involving House members has come across his desk.