The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), an ethics watchdog group, released its annual list of the worst ethics violators of 2018 on Monday.
According to the group, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were the top offenders “for failing to adequately protect congressional staff from sexual and other forms of harassment.”
Over a year ago, FACT asked congressional leaders to release the names of all the Members of Congress tied to the $17 million in taxpayer funds that the Office of Compliance (OOC) has paid out to victims of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination over the past 20 years. The sexual harassment bill the House and Senate recently passed is a welcome step in addressing this pervasive problem in Congress. However, FACT maintains that until congressional leaders actually names the names of those who have already used taxpayer money for these settlements, this systemic problem will only get worse.
“The American people have a right to know if their elected representatives in Congress used taxpayer funds to settle harassment claims. The citizens are the ‘employers’ of Congress and for far too long have been denied the ability to hold their ‘employees’ accountable for illegal behavior, yet have been forced to pay for it,” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). “Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now has an opportunity to act further and we will be encouraging her to finally bring an end to this systematic cover-up. Every day that goes by without releasing the names of Members who have received taxpayer money to settle harassment and discrimination claims is another day of cover-up and another day more innocent people are put at risk of becoming victims.”
As The Daily Caller reports, five other members of Congress were also listed amongst the worst ethics violators of 2018 by the group:
Former Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, for her role in the sexual harassment scandal. When the female Democrat learned that her chief of staff was accused of “physically beating, sexually harassing and threatening to kill another one of the Congresswoman’s staff members, Esty tried to cover it up,” FACT wrote. She continued to employ him for months, then gave him a golden parachute.
Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, who solicited campaign funds based on their involvement in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, while they were still ongoing. “Senators are prohibited from campaign fundraising tied to their official duties,” FACT wrote.
Former Republican congressional candidate Russell Taub of Rhode Island, for operating an illegal “scam PAC” that raised and failed to distribute $1.5 million to candidates.
Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who claimed that voting machines in Florida were tampered with by Russia. Since there is no public evidence of this, FACT said he either lied or improperly disclosed classified information.
New York Democrat Rep. Yvette Clarke, for having 10 percent of her taxpayer-funded office budget go missing in what her own deputy chief of staff believed was a theft scheme between the chief of staff and the IT aide, Abid Awan. Since Clarke failed to take action and refused to discuss the incident publicly, she managed to win re-election by 1,000 votes. The missing funds would be enough to buy 20 iPads for every employee, and the former chief of staff, Shelley Clarke, signed off on the invoices. Clarke later had the missing items removed from the House inventory as if they never existed.
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