Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The idea of members of Congress using taxpayer dollars to defend themselves from or settle sexual harassment claims makes my blood boil, but when I look at it a bit more closely I see there’s one avenue wherein the expense is justified. If it hasn’t already happened, I’m sure there will soon be baseless allegations leveled at a member of Congress for political gain. I would hate for an innocent man or woman to have to pay the cost of defending charges that came simply because of the office they hold.
Therefore, I would support paying for the initial defense of any member of Congress against claims of sexual impropriety. However, this would come with the understanding that if the charges end up to be founded in truth, then every dime spent would be repaid, plus a percentage penalty.
Under no circumstances should a single cent be spent to settle harassment or misconduct claims, no matter how big a “bargain” it might seem. This is simply allowing Congress to be held hostage by every accuser who sees the taxpayers’ coffers as a bottomless pit from which they can fill their buckets. I realize that not all harassment claims are cut and dried, and it’s often difficult to prove guilt or innocence, but a line must be drawn lest we end up paying for perfidy in perpetuity.
Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-I do believe that members of congress, who uses taxpayers’ funds to settle sexual misconduct scandals should be held accountable to the highest degree.
They should be forced to resign, pay the fine, and face prosecution. It is not fair to the people of America to see such matters handled with a lack of accountability and transparency.
These matters are serious and should be treated as such! Members of Congress should be seen as examples. If it’s ok for them to get caught in sex scandals, citizens will not see the need to do differently. They will imitate their example.
Once a crime or misconduct of that nature is done in America, the perpetrator is liable to bear the responsibility of such charges. The same applies to the members of Congress.
They should in no way be exempt. They should pay the settlement out of their own pockets, go through the dispute process and if guilty, be prosecuted.
Also, consider what the victims themselves have to go through. They have to pay for they own legal fees and endure a long,drawn-out process. Meanwhile, the Member of Congress gets the funding for their own lawyers.
The legislative laws that govern these processes should be reformed. Taxpayers’ dollars should not be used to fund lawsuits against members of congress. It will negatively impact taxpayers of the country.
Owatonna, MN Correspondent-If there was ever any doubt that the US Congress is an elite, privileged club that considers itself to be either above or outside the laws that govern the lowly masses, the revelation that sexual harassment lawsuits against members of Congress were settled with an off-the-books slush fund consisting of taxpayer dollars removes all doubt. Heck yes, those members of Congress who are guilty of harassment and of using this secret fund should resign and pay the money back.
However, a Congress member’s guilt or innocence should be established before any other action is taken. Merely claiming sexual harassment doesn’t prove guilt. Once proven guilty, the Congressperson should resign. But that policy should apply to cases going forward. All members of Congress who used this fund to settle harassment suits should be forced to repay that money, and the lawsuits should go on the public record just like any other lawsuit that involves a government official.
The more critical issue is that Congress found it necessary to establish this fund in the first place and that tax dollars have been used secretly and with no accountability to anyone. This illustrates how deeply entrenched the good-old-boy entitlement culture has become in politics. How can the public trust anyone in power who enact a law designed to give them privileges unavailable to anyone else? If that weren’t bad enough, this law enables members of Congress to behave unethically or illegally, pay off an accuser with secret taxpayer money to avoid prosecution and publicity, and then go on about their business with no personal pain or consequences as well as having no incentive to stop the offending behavior. This secret slush fund is a symptom of a larger problem–sexual harassment. Abolishing the fund and forcing Congress members who’ve used it to repay the money they’ve spent from it is only one small step of many that should be taken to stop the insidious problem of sexual misconduct and harassment.
Cartwright-Tough one for sure. On the surface it does seem like an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, but I would agree with my right honorable friend from North Carolina that it’s tough to expect an elected official to defend themselves against potentially baseless claims. I would also agree that we can’t allow false accusers to profit at the public expense, so we can’t use taxpayer funds to settle any cases. So, let’s pay for the initial defense. If they’re guilty or settle the case, it comes out of their pockets and not the taxpayers. I would also agree with the point that my right honorable friend from Minnesota made in that any Congressman who has benefited from a settlement at the taxpayers’ expense should be forced to repay those funds.