Esty seeks Ethics investigation into her own conduct

Esty seeks Ethics investigation into her own conduct
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Rep. Elizabeth EstyElizabeth Henderson EstyFormer aides alleging sexual harassment on Capitol Hill urge congressional action Rising Dem star in Connecticut says people like me ‘deserve a seat at the table’ in Congress House Dems to invest in South Carolina race MORE (D-Conn.) on Monday took the remarkable step of requesting an official ethics investigation into her own conduct. 

The third-term lawmaker is facing accusations that she shielded a former top aide from allegations that he’d threatened and harassed another senior staffer in the office.

Citing “the spirit of transparency,” Esty is asking the House Ethics Committee to review the 2016 incident and determine “whether there was any wrongdoing on my part.”  

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“I request that such inquiry and, if warranted, an investigation, be conducted expeditiously and openly, and I pledge the full cooperation of myself and every member of my official and campaign staffs to ensure that the Committee's inquiry into this matter will be full and complete,” Esty wrote to Reps. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksWomen poised to take charge in Dem majority Hillicon Valley: Officials pressed on Russian interference at security forum | FCC accuses Sinclair of deception | Microsoft reveals Russia tried to hack three 2018 candidates | Trump backs Google in fight with EU | Comcast gives up on Fox bid Press shuts out lawmakers to win congressional softball game MORE (R-Ind.) and Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchHouse panels set up to probe indicted GOP Reps. Collins, Hunter Ivanka Trump on mass shooting: 'Our hearts are with Jacksonville' Top Ethics Dem calls for Nielsen to resign MORE (D-Fla.), who head the Ethics panel. 

She also asked that the probe go beyond her specific case, “to explore whether the rules and procedures for dealing with such matters need to be further revised and strengthened.”

Esty is facing calls to resign following reports last week that her former chief of staff, Tony Baker, allegedly punched and berated another former aide, Anna Kain, who left the office in 2015. More than a year later, Baker left a voicemail on Kain’s phone threatening to kill her, according to The Washington Post, which obtained the audio recordings. The pair had reportedly dated in the past, and Kain contacted the police and secured a restraining order against Baker.

Esty, upon learning of the allegations shortly after the threatening phone call, urged Baker to get counseling and launched an internal investigation into his behavior. The probe revealed that “the threat of violence was not an isolated incident,” Esty said last week in a statement, “but part of a pattern of behavior that victimized many of the women on my staff.”

Baker was dismissed in August of 2016, after securing a severance agreement that included a $5,000 payment and a positive letter of recommendation from Esty, who’s been a vocal proponent of the anti-harassment #MeToo movement.

Her decision to keep Baker on staff for months following the allegations, combined with the severance agreement, have led to calls from both sides of the aisle for Esty to step down — calls she has refused.

Instead, she says she wants to use her experience as a kind of cautionary tale for improving House rules when it comes to both staffer misconduct and how lawmakers should approach it.

“Although we worked with the House Employment Counsel to investigate and ultimately dismiss this employee for his outrageous behavior with a former staffer, I believe it is important for the House Ethics Committee to conduct its own inquiry into this matter,” Esty said Monday in a statement accompanying her letter.  

“It certainly was far from a perfect process ­— and I would appreciate their advice, counsel, and review.”

Section 18(c) of House Ethics Committee rules allow lawmakers to request examinations of their own conduct, and it’s rare — but not unheard of — for members to do so. In launching an investigation into Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) in January, the committee cited section 18(c), revealing that Meehan had lodged such a request. Former Rep. Charlie RangelCharles (Charlie) Bernard RangelEsty seeks Ethics investigation into her own conduct Midterms may hinge on how voters view sexual misconduct Expect more bad behavior until Congress cleans up ethics rules MORE (D-N.Y.) also sought an Ethics investigation in 2008 amid charges that he’d violated fundraising rules.

The Ethics Committee on Monday declined to comment on the Esty episode.