Conservative group files suit against Hastings, alleging sexual harassment

A conservative public-interest group filed a lawsuit on Monday against Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), alleging that he sexually harassed a former female staff member.

For two years, while Hastings served as co-chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the agency’s former policy adviser, Winsome Packer, alleges she received “unwelcome sexual advances, crude sexual comments and unwelcome touching by Mr. Hastings,” according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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Hastings denied the allegations on Monday, saying Packer was motivated by a personal agenda.

“I have never sexually harassed anyone,” Hastings said in a statement. “In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me. When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, ‘How bizarre!’

“I will win this lawsuit. That is a certainty. In a race with a lie, the truth always wins. And when the truth comes to light and the personal agendas of my accusers are exposed, I will be vindicated.”

Judicial Watch is suing Hastings for monetary and declarative relief, maintaining that Packer suffered from insomnia, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and symptoms of coronary artery disease as a “direct result of Mr. Hastings’ sexual harassment.”

The claim against Hastings is accompanied by three others — two against the commission and one against Fred Turner, the commission’s former staff director and Hastings's ex-chief of staff. The complaint against Turner accuses him of retaliating against Packer when she raised complaints of the alleged harassment.

The lawsuit says that Packer “was particularly vulnerable to such threats because she was a Republican working for the Democratically-controlled Commission.”

According to Judicial Watch, Packer unsuccessfully attempted to bring her complaints to the commission, the House Ethics Committee and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), commission co-chairman.

Packer formerly worked for the House Homeland Security and Veterans' Affairs committees.

Judicial Watch has a history of filing lawsuits against politicians — its motto is "Because no one is above the law" — including former President Clinton and others in his administration; the group has received generous funding from billionaire Clinton critic Richard Mellon Scaife. But it has at times also gone after Republicans, among them former Vice President Cheney.

This isn’t the first time Judicial Watch has gone after Hastings. In late 2006, the group wrote to then-presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), asking her not to consider Hastings for the chairmanship of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Judicial Watch pointed to Hastings’s tenure as a federal judge, which ended after he was impeached for bribery and perjury by Congress and removed from office in 1988. The group said he demonstrated a “lack of integrity” and “ethical misdeeds.”

In something of a strange twist, Packer published a novel last year, titled A Personal Agenda, that, according to a press release promoting it at the time, centers around the murder of a black ex-congressman who had troubles with corruption and extramarital affairs. A second black lawmaker is also killed.

"A Personal Agenda seeks to provoke its readers by examining racial tensions, corruption and sexual harassment in Congress, as well as the impact of immigration to the U.S. and other nations," the release said.

Packer claimed at the time the book was inspired by her experiences on Capitol Hill.

"In working on Capitol Hill, I felt that my civil rights had been encroached upon and given that the perpetrators have been others who had fought for their own rights, I found it to be sobering," Packer said.

— Jordan Fabian contributed to this article.

This post was last updated at 4:42 p.m.