Speier says cur­rent law­mak­ers have sex­u­ally ha­rassed staffers

Lodi News-Sentinel - - State/Nation - By Erin Ba­con

WASHINGTON — Two cur­rent law­mak­ers al­legedly have sex­u­ally ha­rassed con­gres­sional staff in the past. And a for­mer staffer re­port­edly asked to de­liver pa­pers to a mem­ber’s home was greeted by him wear­ing only a towel.

That’s what Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Rep. Jackie Speier and Repub­li­can Bar­bara Com­stock of Vir­ginia re­counted dur­ing a hear­ing by the House Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mit­tee on sex­ual ha­rass­ment Tues­day.

Such al­le­ga­tions are rare. Mem­bers of Congress sel­dom crit­i­cize col­leagues for mis­con­duct, es­pe­cially when the al­le­ga­tion is sex­ual ha­rass­ment. The ac­counts from Speier and Com­stock are among dozens de­tail­ing a hos­tile and preda­tory en­vi­ron­ment for fe­male staffers that have emerged af­ter ac­cu­sa­tions tar­get­ing Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein seem­ingly broke through a con­spir­acy of si­lence per­va­sive in many of the na­tion’s most re­spected and in­flu­en­tial in­sti­tu­tions.

Ac­cu­sa­tions in­volv­ing cur­rent and for­mer mem­bers of Congress and staff have rein­vig­o­rated ef­forts to pro­vide more pro­tec­tions for vic­tims on the Hill. But so far, no prom­i­nent law­mak­ers have been named.

“I have had nu­mer­ous meet­ings and phone calls with staff mem­bers both present and for­mer, women and men who have been sub­jected to this in­ex­cus­able and of­ten times il­le­gal be­hav­ior,” said Speier, who tes­ti­fied at the hear­ing and ques­tioned wit­nesses.

Speier said there are two mem­bers of Congress, a Repub­li­can and a Demo­crat, “who have en­gaged in sex­ual ha­rass­ment.”

“Th­ese ha­rassers (made) propo­si­tions such as “Are you go­ing to be a good girl?” Speier said. She also spoke of “per­pe­tra­tors ex­pos­ing their gen­i­tals, to vic­tims hav­ing their pri­vate parts grabbed on the House floor.”

All staffers want, she said, “is to be able to work in a hos­tile-free work en­vi­ron­ment.”

Com­stock re­called be­ing told that the mem­ber who greeted the for­mer staffer in a towel then in­vited her into the house and ex­posed him­self to her.

She said she did not know who the mem­ber was, but does know that he is still serv­ing in Congress. The Vir­ginia Repub­li­can sug­gested that con­gres­sional of­fices need an ex­plicit ha­rass­ment pol­icy out­lin­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween mem­bers and their staffs.

“We re­ally don’t have cur­rent guide­lines right now that tell a mem­ber that a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with a 19-year-old in­tern is off lim­its,” Com­stock said. “I haven’t seen that in any ma­te­ri­als.”

Glo­ria Lett, with the Of­fice of House Em­ploy­ment Coun­sel, told the com­mit­tee that only the House code of con­duct broadly ad­dresses the sex­ual con­duct of mem­bers.


Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Fran­cisco) in a De­cem­ber 2014 in­ter­view.

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