Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) started an avalanche of fake news after she claimed earlier this week that the Congressional Office of Compliance had paid $15 million over the past 10 to 15 years to settle sexual harassment cases. But even Breitbart News inquiries to the office have not settled the matter or uncovered the facts about the extent of sexual harassment taking place on Capitol Hill.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) November 14, 2017
Speier is one of several female lawmakers who has spoken out about sexual harassment being pervasive on Capitol Hill in recent days.
Speier’s remarks took place in an interview on Tuesday with Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s MTP Daily, which was quickly picked up by numerous media outlets, including the Hill:
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that the House has paid out $15 million in harassment settlements over more than a decade, though a spokesperson later clarified that figure does not only account for sexual harassment claims.
“One member of Congress has settled a claim and there has been a taxpayer settlement,” Speier told Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s MTP Daily.
“We do know that there’s about $15 million that has been paid out by the House on behalf of harassers in the last 10 to 15 years,” she added.
“Fifteen million dollars has been paid out over sexual harassment claims so obviously more than one member of Congress,” Todd said in the interview.
The Hill, among other outlets, added Speier’s later attempts to clarify her remarks:
A spokesperson for Speier later clarified to The Hill that the $15 million figure provided by the Office of Compliance (OOC) applied to all types of complaints handled by the office in the fiscal period between 1997 and 2016. These include not just complaints relating to sexual harassment, but also to complaints regarding racial and religious discrimination, as well as discrimination against people with disabilities, according to the spokesperson.
The Daily Wire added this to its reporting on the settlement fund:
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the settlements listed derive for all forms of violations of the ACC, which has 13 statues, not just sexual harassment.
And, in fact, the OOC on Tuesday released its latest data on the number of settlements made each fiscal year from 1997 to 2017, even though it is only required to produce an annual report as required by the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (CAA).
“Based on the volume of recent inquiries regarding payment of awards and settlements reached under the CAA, I am releasing these figures beginning with Fiscal Year 1997, up to and including FY2017,” Susan Tsui Grundmann, executive director of the OOC, wrote in the report released on Thursday.
“A large portion of cases originate from employing of offices in the legislative branch other than the House of Representatives or the Senate, and involve various statutory provisions incorporated by the CAA, such as the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family, and Medical Leave Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Grundmann wrote. “The statistics on payments are not further broken down into specific claims because settlements may involve cases that allege violations of more than one of the 13 statutes incorporated by the CAA.”
Teresa James, director of the Administrative Dispute Resolution Program at OOC, told Breitbart News that confidentiality protocol means that there is no way to glean from the numbers exactly how many of the cases over the past two decades were for sexual harassment.
James also said that some cases involve multiple charges and multiple individuals. For example, in 2007 there were 25 settlements totaling $4,053,274, but each of those 25 cases could involve multiple people and multiple charges.
“There’s actually nothing we can do,” James said of finding out just how many cases involved sexual harassment, let alone who allegedly committed the abuse.
Axios reported there may be some in the House who know the tawdry details of sexual harassment cases:
The chairman to the House Administration Committee, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), and the ranking member may be familiar with the details of the settlements since they have to approve payments after a settlement is reached. Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are not aware of the details of the settlements, per CNN.
CNN also reported that even if the names of lawmakers were made public, they still would not be responsible for any compensation given to sexual harassment victims.
Once a settlement is reached, the money is not paid out of an individual lawmaker’s office but rather comes out of a special fund set up to handle this within the US Treasury — meaning taxpayers are footing the bill.