On December 4, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) promised to pay back a taxpayer-funded $84,000 settlement he used to conclude a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former staffer, telling a Texas television station he was “going to hand a check over this week ... and say, ‘Look, here’s the amount of my settlement. Give it back to the taxpayers.’”
But 113 days later, he hasn’t.
Now Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who has been spearheading the effort to reform Congress’s unwieldy sexual harassment complaint process, has written a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan asking him to “hold Congressman Blake Farenthold to his promise.”
Farenthold is the only known sitting member of Congress to have used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by a former staffer who alleged that Farenthold had told an assistant in his office that he fantasized about her and had acted inappropriately toward her and other women in his office.
In February, the House of Representatives passed two measures to reform the process for reporting sexual harassment in Congress, including one that requires the Office of Compliance to make public any funds (including taxpayer money) used to settle sexual harassment claims within 30 days of a claim being made.
AshLee Strong, the national press secretary for Ryan, told Vox, “The speaker has reiterated to Mr. Farenthold that he needs to keep his promise to repay taxpayers for the settlement.” Farenthold’s office did not reply to a request for comment.
“Congressman Farenthold clearly has no problem with breaking his promise to the American public to repay the $84,000 in taxpayer funds he used for a settlement for his former aide,” Speier said in a statement to Vox. Read the letter below and here: