Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) announced Wednesday he was working on legislation to end the practice of lawmakers using taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment claims, and to unseal those settlement records.
“I’m working on legislation to unseal settlement records, bar use of tax dollars to pay claims against members & staff, prohibit members from using office budgets to camouflage payments (a Conyers rule) & require reimbursement of the taxpayer,” DeSantis tweeted on Wednesday.
On Monday, Buzzfeed reported that Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) office had paid an accuser $27,000 to settle a complaint that she had been fired after refusing his sexual advances.
The settlement, using taxpayer funds, was reached outside of the formal reporting mechanism for sexual harassment claims. Last week, Rep. Jackie Speier testified that Congress had paid out more than $15 million over the last decade to settle such complaints.
DeSantis’s legislation will make public all payments funded by taxpayers, as well as the nature of the initial allegation and the member of Congress implicated.
It would also bar the use of any tax dollars to settle sexual harassment claims in which the plaintiff is a member of Congress, or an employee of the House or Senate, and require that any member of Congress that settled a complaint using taxpayer funds reimburse the American people.
“Settlements paid with tax dollars should not be kept secret. Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Furthermore, members of Congress cannot be allowed to use the American people’s money as a personal slushfund to cover wrongdoing.”
Separately, Democrats have also proposed legislation that would expose those who settled sexual harassment claims with taxpayer funds and reform the reporting process.