DeSantis: 'Really Troubling' for Conyers to 'Camouflage' Payment to Accuser
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said this morning he'll introduce legislation to unseal Congressional records of taxpayer money that was used to pay for sexual harassment settlements.
He highlighted that Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) settled a complaint in 2015 from a woman who alleged she was fired from his staff because she rejected his sexual advances.
In a story first reported this week by BuzzFeed, Conyers‘ office paid the woman more than $27,000 to settle the complaint under a confidentiality agreement.
I’m working on legislation to unseal settlement records, bar use of tax dollars to pay claims against members & staff, prohibit members from using office budgets to camouflage payments (a Conyers rule) & require reimbursement of the taxpayer.
— Ron DeSantis (@RepDeSantis) November 22, 2017
But DeSantis stressed that Conyers' payment came out of his office budget, not from a newly-reported "slush fund" used to pay sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress or staffers.
He said Conyers sought to "camouflage" the payment so it would appear as if it were a regular payment to an employee.
"There are a lot of really troubling issues both with the Conyers issue and in the broader question of how are our tax dollars being used to cover for private misconduct of congressmen and staffers," said DeSantis on "America's Newsroom."
DeSantis said he will seek to bar any taxpayer money from being used to pay settlements arising from sexual or other misconduct on Capitol Hill.
Conyers has denied wrongdoing, saying in a statement the "reasonable severance payment" was made to avoid a long legal battle.
"I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so. My office resolved the allegations — with an express denial of liability — to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation. That should not be lost in the narrative. The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment. There are statutory requirements of confidentiality that apply to both the employee and me regarding this matter." - John Conyers.
A second woman has since come forward, alleging that she endured "unwanted touching" while working for Conyers in 2015 and 2016.
The woman stated in court documents that the daily encounters included, “rubbing on her shoulders, kissing her forehead, covering and attempting to hold her hand,” as well as invitations to Conyers' home.
The 88-year-old Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, representing a Detroit-area district since 1965. DeSantis said Conyers and other entrenched lawmakers like him are "walking advertisements for term limits."
Watch the interview above.