Republican Congressman Ken Buck is calling on Congress to restrict the ability of companies to deduct sexual harassment settlements from their taxes as Hollywood continues to reel from a widespread sexual misconduct scandal.
In a letter Tuesday to House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), Rep. Buck (R-CO) requested that language be inserted into Congress’s tax reform proposal that disallows companies to claim funds paid out in sexual harassment or misconduct settlements as business expenses, and thus deduct those expenses from their taxes.
In October, the New York Times reported that now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had reached financial settlements with at least eight different women related to alleged sexual misconduct over a period of decades. A follow-up report from the Times claimed that the film company he co-founded, The Weinstein Company, knew about the financial settlements since at least 2015, while a report from celebrity gossip outlet TMZ claimed that Weinstein’s contract allowed for lawsuits related to sexual harassment.
“Recent news reports have revealed the systemic patterns of abuse engaged in by men in the entertainment and news industries and the efforts that media companies went through to cover up this wrongdoing,” Buck wrote in the letter, first obtained by Breitbart News. “Each day brings new revelations of the pervasiveness of the moral rot within Hollywood and the entertainment industry.”
“What is perhaps most tragic is the victims of men like Harvey Weinstein who would not have been abused if the media companies had not methodically and regularly provided sanctuary to perpetrators,” the letter continues. “I cannot fathom how morally bankrupt the leadership of these companies must be to willingly allow powerful men to prey upon those with less power.”
Buck went on to express concern that current federal tax law “unwittingly rewards the cover up” of sexual harassment, misconduct, or abuse claims.
“To the degree that settlements in these recent cases could be claimed as business expenses, I ask that you include language in the tax reform proposal that would end this practice,” Buck wrote. “Under no circumstances should our tax code subsidize the efforts to conceal this issue.”
Since the first report about Weinstein was published in October, nearly 70 prominent figures in entertainment and media have been accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault, including actors Ben Affleck, Kevin Spacey, and Jeremy Piven, media personalities Mark Halperin and David Corn, and directors Brett Ratner and James Toback.
In an interview with Breitbart News this month, Buck called on Congress to initiate hearings on the entertainment industry’s treatment of women.
“What’s more concerning to me than one individual’s conduct, as gross as that is, is the overall culture in Hollywood and the entertainment industry,” Buck said. “And I think it is just a matter of too many people turning a blind eye to this criminal conduct.”
Read the congressman’s full letter here.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum