It’s nice to know politicians on Capitol Hill are spending taxpayer dollars wisely.
On Thursday, the Senate Rules and Appropriations Committees released data indicating that at least $600,000 of public money has been spent on settling workplace misconduct claims in Congress’ upper chamber since 1997.
According to the information obtained by Politico, the funds have been used for 13 misconduct claims, including $14,260 for a settlement that alleged sex discrimination.
Rules committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) released the data amid pressure spurred by nation-wide opposition to sexual harassment.
The information did not specify whether the single sex discrimination case involved sexual harassment, as congressional record keeping has generally not distinguished between the two forms of misconduct.
The settlements included $21,420 for two claims of racial discrimination, $89,800 for disability discrimination, and $286,786 for age discrimination.
One of the two age discrimination claims, settled for $102,904, represented the largest settlement paid out from a senator’s office in 20 years.
The committee said it met with the Senate Legal Counsel’s Office to determine whether the data could be released without compromising the identity of the alleged victims.
“While the Rules Committee has been eager to provide this information in a transparent manner, it has been our priority to protect the victims involved in these settlements from further harm,” Shelby asserted.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) suggested the Senate should disclose the identities of the senators who settled misconduct claims, saying “transparency is the best way to figure out how to handle situations, and the American people want to know.”
“We could mirror the way the House has done it, without full disclosure, but even then I think people are going to keep asking the question,” Capito continued. “I would.”
The $600,000 figure comprises settlements made from compliance office funds. They do not include payments from senators’ own taxpayer-funded budget offices, as was the case with former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who used his office budget to settle a $27,000 sexual harassment claim in 2015.
Thus, $600,000 is potentially only the tip of the iceberg for misconduct settlements–of which taxpayers are footing the bill.
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