Conservatives call for end to taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements

Conservatives call for end to taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements
© Greg Nash

A group of more than 60 conservative leaders called Friday for House GOP leadership to prevent lawmakers from using taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment cases.

The letter, spearheaded by Let Freedom Ring President Colin Hanna, calls for an end to the use of taxpayer money in sexual harassment settlements. 

Others who signed the letter include Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund Chairwoman Jenny Beth Martin, Citizens United President David Bossie and several people who served in former President Reagan's administration.

The letter comes just days after a report that another lawmaker, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), settled a harassment complaint with taxpayer money.  

"At least nine public polls taken in November and December confirm that the American public is revulsed, not only by the acts of harassment themselves, but also by the practice of buying the victims’ silence with settlements paid for with taxpayers’ money and hidden from the public through non-disclosure agreements," the conservatives wrote in a letter sent to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthy10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble MORE (R-Calif.).

The letter, which was facilitated by the Conservative Action Project, comes as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have backed legislation that would prohibit use of taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment lawsuits. It has been revealed in recent months that both former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' McConnell: Reparations aren't 'a good idea' This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) and Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdMembers spar over sexual harassment training deadline Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Lawmaker seeks to ban ex-members from lobbying until sexual harassment settlements repaid MORE (R-Texas) have used taxpayer funds to resolve harassment cases.

The conservative leaders highlighted legislation offered by Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisBacklash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics WHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report MORE (R-Fla.), which has a large, bipartisan group of co-sponsors.

It would bar taxpayer funds from being used to pay sexual assault and harassment cases against lawmakers and staff, and it would force lawmakers and staff who have used taxpayer funds to resolve claims in the past to reimburse the federal government with interest. It also would bar nondisclosure agreements from being a condition of settlements.

"We understand that there may be other legislative proposals addressing the same concerns that will soon be introduced," the conservatives wrote to Ryan and McCarthy. "Our purpose here is not to suggest that any one bill is the perfect solution, but rather to urge that deliberation by the Committee on House Administration be initiated promptly. Your encouragement as the top leaders in the House would ensure that this issue is given the kind of serious attention it deserves."

Hanna said it's important for conservatives to take a stand on the issue. 

“I think we are the conscience of the body politic,” he said in an interview with The Hill.

The coalition has also launched a website, NoTaxesForHushMoney.com, which members of the public can use to contact their lawmakers.

"As a conservative and someone who has put together conservative coalitions in the past, I thought it would be appropriate for the conservative movement to come together and support corrective legislation — legislation that would eliminate the taxpayer-funded hush money payoffs and the nondisclosure agreements that accompany them,” Hanna said.