Opinion: Congress should not use taxpayer dollars to settle harassment claims

FILE - In this March 10, 2011, file photo, Rep. Jackie Speier D-Calif., listens to testimony during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. One current and three former female members of Congress tell The Associated Press they have been sexually harassed or subjected to hostile sexual comments by their male colleagues while serving in the House. Speier of California has recently gone public with an account of being sexually assaulted by a male chief of staff while she was a congressional staffer. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Boris Epshteyn formerly served as a Senior Advisor to the Trump Campaign and served in the White House as Special Assistant to The President and Assistant Communications Director for Surrogate Operations.

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Recently so many brave women and men have come forward and shared their horrifying experiences with sexual assault and harassment.

We are now learning of allegations in the halls in Congress.

Apparently not only are these incidents prevalent in our nation’s capital, but it may have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

“We do know there is about $15 million that has been paid out by the House on behalf of harassers in the last 10 to 15 years,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

$15 million.

Did these payouts protect members of Congress or staffers? We do not know. What were they accused of? We do not know that either. The information about the accusations and settlements isn’t being made available to the public. We do know that representatives Barbara Comstock and Jackie Speier testified about two currently unnamed and serving members who have been accused of sexual harrassment.

Keeping the accusations and payments hush-hush protects those accused of unacceptable actions. It allows them to keep their jobs, whether they are an employee or a member.

We are told that the $15 million in payouts not only includes sexual harassment claims but also racial, religious and disability related discrimination claims.

Here is the bottom line: transparency should be required from our public servants. Information on whose behalf and why the $15 million has already been paid in settlements has to be disclosed.

Further, lawmakers and staffers who used taxpayer funds to settle with their accusers should return the money to the federal government. The American people should not be funding these settlements.

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