It’s beyond dispute that the most deplorable moment of the last week has been White House aide Kelly Sadler’s disgraceful slagging of John McCain, and the White House seemingly being more concerned about the fact we learned about it via a leak. It would take a lot of effort to get nearly as outrageous as that, but a former Republican congressman from Texas certainly tried. He was forced out of office after it emerged he’d made taxpayers foot the bill to settle a sexual harassment complaint. On Tuesday, he crassly declared that he has no intention of paying us back.
Back in 2014, Lauren Greene, the communications director for Congressman Blake Farenthold, a Republican from Texas’ 27th District, claimed that Farenthold had fired her when she called him out for making suggestive comments to her. After a tedious process of mandatory counseling and mediation, interspersed with waiting periods, Greene sued Farenthold’s office.
However, out of concern for the expense of a drawn-out trial, Farenthold’s office and Greene agreed to confidential mediation. The dispute was settled confidentially in November 2015. There the matter stood until December, when word got out that Democratic Congressman John Conyers had paid $27,000 out of his taxpayer-funded office account to settle a harassment claim from a former staffer. In the ensuing furor, the Congressional Office of Compliance, Capitol Hill’s equivalent of an HR department, revealed that the Treasury had paid out only one other harassment settlement the last five years. Politico and The Washington Post subsequently reported that congressman was Farenthold.
In the face of a nationwide outcry over his utter contempt for the people he represented, Farenthold announced later that month that he would not run for a fifth term. He abruptly resigned in April rather than face an Ethics Committee investigation. On Tuesday, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported that Farenthold had signed on as a lobbyist for the Calhoun Port Authority, which operates the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort roughly halfway between Corpus Christi and Houston.
When ABC News collared him on Tuesday, Farenthold refused to give any details about his employment. When asked about the settlement, Farenthold really showed his (cl)ass. He said that “I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that.”
This is outrageous on several counts. For one thing, Farenthold was one of the richest members of Congress; at the time of his resignation, he was worth $2.4 million. On top of that, his lobbying job pays him $160,000 per year. In other words, the $84,000 would have essentially been a rounding error for him.
For another thing, Farenthold is going back on his word to repay the settlement. He made that promise in December on KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi; watch here.
Farenthold maintained his innocence, but promised to “do my best” to write a check for the full $84,000. However, he had yet to do so when he resigned, and has now announced he will not do so.
Most outrageous of all, Greene has struggled to keep on her feet since the settlement. She has been effectively blackballed from the communications field, and has been unable to find steady work anywhere.
Farenthold backed into office on the back of the 2010 Republican wave, and didn’t even lift a finger in the next three elections after his district was nicely gerrymandered for him. But by continuing to stick his former employers–us–with the bill for his harassment, he has announced in capital letters that he was not fit to clean the House, let alone serve in it.
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