Ethics panel expands investigation into Farenthold

Ethics panel expands investigation into Farenthold
© Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it is expanding the scope of its investigation into allegations against Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdEx-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups Republican wins right to replace Farenthold in Congress Supreme Court rules for Texas in redistricting case MORE (R-Texas), who has been accused of sexual harassment.

Farenthold settled sexual harassment allegations from a former female staffer for $84,000 in 2014. Since revelations emerged that taxpayers paid out that settlement, Farenthold has announced he will reimburse the Treasury and not seek reelection next year.

In the meantime, Farenthold is the subject of an Ethics Committee investigation that was established earlier this month.

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Upon establishing the investigation, the Ethics Committee said it would investigate allegations of sexual harassment against a former staffer, gender discrimination and retaliation for her complaining of discriminatory conduct. The panel said it would also review allegations that Farenthold made “inappropriate statements” to other members of his congressional staff.

On Thursday, the Ethics Committee said it would also look into possible sexual harassment toward any member of his staff; whether his congressional staff members were required to work on his reelection campaigns and used House resources improperly to do so; and if Farenthold made false statements in testimony to the panel.

The expansion of the probe comes after CNN reported last week that Farenthold allegedly made sexually graphic jokes and berated aides.

Farenthold denied to CNN that he made demeaning comments about a staffer’s fiancée. He did, however, acknowledge that he regularly referred to aides as “f---tards," but that it was "in jest, not in anger."

The New York Times also reported that Farenthold often bullied his aides and led an office that often engaged in “inappropriate banter.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog that refers cases to the Ethics Committee, previously investigated the sexual harassment allegations against Farenthold by the former staffer who received the $84,000 settlement. But the office ultimately concluded in 2015 that there was "not substantial reason to believe" that Farenthold engaged in sexual harassment.