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Ethics Committee establishes subpanel to probe Texas rep after harassment claims
The House Ethics Committee will impanel an investigative subcommittee to look into allegations of sexual harassment against Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), the committee announced Thursday.
Farenthold is facing scrutiny over his use of taxpayer funds to settle a 2014 lawsuit with his former communications director Lauren Greene, who claims the Texas Republican sexually harassed her and fostered an overall hostile work environment.
The committee said it established the subcommittee by a unanimous vote, which will seek to determine whether Farenthold's actions violated the House's official code of conduct.
Farenthold has not admitted to any wrongdoing, but said he would reimburse taxpayers for the legal costs.
The committee clarified that its impaneling of a subcommittee to investigate the matter does not mean that Farenthold is guilty of any violation.
While the committee had interviewed several witnesses in its initial investigation after the lawsuit, the resolution of the issue has been "significantly delayed by difficulties in obtaining live testimony from key witnesses other than Representative Farenthold and in accessing confidential documents" from prior litigation on the issue.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have pushed for revisions to the rules protecting confidentiality in sexual harassment complaints in Congress, which has kept the Farenthold under wraps until recently.