Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Daily on Tuesday that the U.S. House of Representatives has paid $15 million to alleged victims of sexual harassment by its own members in recent years.
“We do know there is about $15 million that has been paid out by the House on behalf of harassers in the last ten to 15 years,” she said.
“15 million dollars has been paid out over sexual harassment claims,” Todd replied, somewhat shocked. “So, obviously more than one member of Congress.”
Pressed for details, Speier said she did not know how many members of Congress were involved. She also explained that victims had signed non-disclosure agreements.
“If the taxpayers are involved, don’t we have the right to know?” Todd asked later in the segment.
“I think you do have the right to know,” she said. “But right now, under the system, you don’t have a right to know.”
Speer described a one-sided investigative process that does everything to protect members of Congress — and little to protect the rights of victims: “Right now it takes almost 90 days to be able to file a complaint. And before actually going through the mediation, you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. And then, you are not represented by counsel, but the harasser is represented by the House of Representatives general counsel.”
Todd admitted that Congress’s proclivity to sexual harassment was an open secret in Washington, DC: “It’s like finding out that there was gambling going on in Casablanca. The environment on Capitol Hill, particularly when I was younger in the ’90s and the ’00s. It was sort of well-known that that environment existed.”
Earlier in the day, Speier testified at the Committee on House Administration that there were two current members of Congress, one Republican and one Democrat, who were guilty of sexual harassment. She did not divulge names.
CNN also reported on Tuesday that harassment was widespread on Capitol Hill and in the surrounding office buildings.