N.J. Congressman proposes ban on taxpayer-financed sexual harassment settlements

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ- 07) is leveraging his position with the House Ethics Committee to end taxpayer-funded settlements of sexual harassment allegations against members of Congress and their staff.

“Taxpayers in congressional districts across the Nation are outraged over allegations and the lack of transparency and accountability concerning taxpayer-financed harassment settlements in Congress. Since 1997, Congress has paid millions of dollars out of a secret U.S. Treasury Department fund to settle hundreds of workplace claims against members of Congress and congressional aides,” said Lance in a statement. “Such secrecy is a gross betrayal of public trust and must end immediately. My legislation, if enacted, would increase government transparency for the American taxpayer, create a safer work environment and hold members of Congress and congressional staff — past and present — accountable for their actions.”

Lance’s styled “Ensure Transparency and Honesty in Congressional Settlements (ETHICS) Act” comes in the aftermath of a report revealing “a taxpayer-funded account set up within the Treasury Department to cover their legal expenses and settle cases.

Overall, the federal government has paid out in excess of $17 million in workplace settlements over the past twenty years.

In addition to prohibiting future sexual harassment settlements paid by tax dollars, the ETHICS Act would also instruct the Office of Compliance to release the names of perpetrators, the perpetrator’s employing office, and the amount paid to the alleged victim.