Franken-grope

Another taxpayer “slush fund” available to members of Congress to pay off sexual-misconduct claims has been uncovered while Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., described by ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an icon for women’s issues, faces another accusation.

The developments are part of a wave of accusations of sexual harassment that make the original “Peyton Place” – a 1956 novel by Grace Metalious about hypocrisy, social inequities, class privilege, incest, abortion, adultery, lust and murder – look positively kid-friendly.

The Washington Times reported Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., “quietly arranged” a “severance package” of nearly $50,000 in public funds for a staffer who threatened to sue over his alleged drunkenness and creation of a hostile work environment.

Earlier it was revealed that the congressional Office of Compliance had been the source of taxpayer “hush money” to prevent lawsuits against members of Congress.

The Times reported “the Grijalva payout points to another office that lawmakers can use to sweep accusations under the rug with taxpayer-funded settlements negotiated by the House Employment Counsel, which acts as the attorney for all House offices.”

Grijalva’s female aide, after receiving the payout, did not pursue the hostile workplace complaint further, the paper said.

“It seems like all of these House bodies are designed to help cover for members of Congress,” Melanie Sloan, an ethics lawyer in Washington, told the Times. “A large part of the problem is that each member of Congress can treat their staff as their own fiefdom and also know that it will remain silent.”

Gov. Mike Huckabee explains what a “simple” government would look like and offers 12 things citizens want from Washington in “A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington and a Trillion That We Don’t.”

The Time said the role of the House Employment Counsel “in squelching workplace complaints emerged amid a flurry of sexual harassment accusations and shock that Congress has covered it up for years.”

The Office of Compliance in recent years has paid out $17.2 million to settle 264 complaints of sexual harassment and other workplace violations.

The Times also cited a Detroit News report that another woman has accused Conyers of unwanted sexual advances.

Deanna Maher, a former deputy chief of staff for the congressman who worked in his office between 1997 and 2005, said Conyers approached her three times.

The Detroit News said he forced her to share his hotel room after an event, and other incidents included unwanted touching in a car and an attempt to put his hand up her skirt.

It previously was reported that Conyers paid a settlement, using taxpayer funds, to a former employee who said she was sexually harassed.

“Peyton Place” also has swept up former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who is facing new claims of sexual assault from four women.

His past already is littered with charges of sexual misconduct and even rape.

Dozens of big names in Washington, Hollywood and elsewhere are facing accusations.

The current wave began in October with dozens of claims against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. The accusations, ABC said, “opened a floodgate, sparked an international conversation and put new pressure on companies, industries, and political leaders to respond.”

Among the entertainment figures facing claims are celebrity chef John Besh, who was accused by 25 women of sexual harassment; comedian Louis C.K., who was accused by five women of sexual misconduct; Cinefamily executives Hadrian Belove and Shadie Elnashai; actor Richard Dreyfuss; director-producer Gary Goddard; actor Dustin Hoffman; actor Robert Knepper; showrunner Andrew Kreisberg; actor Jeremy Piven; filmmaker Brett Ratner; and comedy festival organizer Gilbert Rozon.

Others who have been accused include producer Chris Savino and actors Steven Seagal, Tom Sizemore, Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Tambor and George Takei.

Many of the accused deny any wrongdoing.

ABC also reports that in the world of news media and publishing,there have been accusations against Billboard magazine executive Stephen Blackwell, Penguin Random House art director Giuseppe Castellano, New Republic publisher Hamilton Fish, journalist Mark Halperin, Artforum publisher Knight Landesman, NPR news chief Michael Oreskes, Amazon executive Roy Price, Webster Public Relations CEO Kirt Webster, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier and NBC News booker Matt Zimmerman.

In politics, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been accused of groping by a number of women. He posed for a photo after a 2006 USO tour that shows him with his hands over a sleeping woman’s breasts.

There also have been claims against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore by two women. One alleges he initiated sexual touching when she was 14 and he was 32, and the other claims that when she was 16, he sexually assaulted her in a parked car. Moore has vehemently denied the allegations.

George H.W. Bush was accused of patting seven women below the waist while posing for photos with them in recent years. Other names include Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel, Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover and British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon.

Alex Gilady of the International Olympic Committee also has been accused as has former South African soccer association president Danny Jordaan.

A news conference has been called for Wednesday to demand the resignations of three members of Congress and an end to the Capitol Hill practice of secretly settling sexual harassment claims with taxpayer money.

The Media Equality Project will insist upon action at a 10 a.m. Eastern event at the National Press Club. Those expected to appear include four different accusers of former President Bill Clinton. Radio talk-show host Melanie Morgan will also be there, just weeks after accusing Sen. Al Franken of harassing her multiple times after a television debate.

Longtime talk host Blanquita Cullum, who is helping organize the Wednesday press conference, said one objective is to put the heat on Franken to resign.

Gov. Mike Huckabee explains what a “simple” government would look like and offers 12 things citizens want from Washington in “A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington and a Trillion That We Don’t.”

 

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.