Washington, DC – Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL-06) – alongside Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-02), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07), Jim Cooper (D-TN-05), and Kathleen Rice (D-NY-04) – today unveiled the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act. This legislation will bring transparency to the process for harassment claims paid out under the Congressional Accountability Act and prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to pay future sexual harassment or sexual assault claims.
“What does it say about the sincerity of Congress in combatting harassment when members and staff can have taxpayers cover for their misconduct while keeping it all secret?,” DeSantis said. “This legislation will protect taxpayers by making congressional settlement data public, barring tax dollars from being used to bail out congressional misconduct and requiring reimbursement of the treasury by members and staff who have had taxpayer-financed settlements paid on their behalf. The bill will also allow victims to speak publicly about harassment suffered irrespective of any non-disclosure agreements.”
“Members of Congress and staff cannot live under special rules,” DeSantis continued. “The current system incentivizes misconduct and makes it difficult for victims. By exposing these secret settlements and by discontinuing using tax dollars to pay for member misconduct, this bill will reduce the incentive for bad behavior and bring more accountability to Congress.”
“For far too long, Members of Congress and staff who have committed egregious acts of sexual harassment and assault have hidden behind closed doors, anonymity, and forced non-disclosure agreements, while taxpayers paid millions in settlements for their misconduct. This is outrageous and must end now. Enough is enough,” said Gabbard. “Our legislation will empower survivors by increasing transparency and accountability, and providing survivors the freedom to publicly share their stories if they so choose, regardless of the non-disclosure agreements they were forced to sign. It will also protect taxpayers by ending taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements, and requiring reimbursement of previous taxpayer-funded settlements. Congress has the responsibility to act now to correct this horrible injustice.”
Blackburn said, “The use of taxpayer funds and forced non-disclosure agreements to silence victims of sexual harassment is disgusting, and I am grateful to be able to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to stop this practice. It is time to restore respect in the congressional workplace, and shame on us if we don’t make this change.”
“No more cover-ups,” Cooper said. “We need transparency, safety and appropriate behavior. Sexual misconduct has no place here, or anywhere.”
Original cosponsors: Jack Bergman (R-MI-01), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07), Dave Brat (R-VA-07), Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), Jim Cooper (D-TN-05), John Delaney (D-MD-06), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-02), Jody Hice (R-GA-10), Mike Johnson (R-LA-04), Walter Jones (R-NC-03), Dave Loebsack (D-IA-02), Luke Messer (R-IN-06), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Gary Palmer (R-AL-06), Steve Pearce (R-NM-02), Kathleen Rice (D-NY-04), Todd Rokita (R-IN-04), Francis Rooney (R-FL-19), Thomas Rooney (R-FL-17), Brad Schneider (D-IL-10).
The Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act will:
- Require disclosure within 30 calendar days of all settlement payments funded by taxpayers, the reason for the payment and the nature of the allegation, and the member of Congress or congressional staffer implicated in the matter.
- Prohibit the future use of taxpayer dollars to pay sexual harassment and sexual assault claims against members of Congress and staff.
- Prohibit members of Congress from using office budgets to camouflage payments.
- Require members of Congress and staff that have ever been named in a sexual harassment or sexual assault settlement paid for by taxpayers reimburse the U.S. Treasury with interest.
- Any individual who received an award may make public statements about the claims notwithstanding the terms of a nondisclosure agreement and nondisclosure agreements cannot be made a condition of any future settlements.