COA FOIA requests Treasury disclose ‘secret payments’ for congressional sexual harassment settlements

U.S. Capitol (Big League Politics photo by Neil W. McCabe)

 A Washington-based government watchdog group filed a Freedom Of Information Act request Monday with the Treasury Department requesting the records of the secret payments in taxpayer dollars to congressional employees to settle sexual harassment suits of other congressional employees over the last two decades.

Powerful testimony, admissions by the Congress’ Office of Compliance, and numerous brave women speaking out have brought to light sexual harassment and discrimination in Congress,” said John J. Vecchione, president of The Cause of Action Institute.

The existence of settlement payments has been publicly confirmed by the congressional Office of Compliance, which stated that the funds for the payments come from an account operated by the Treasury Department, he said.

“Unfortunately, many questions remain concerning how and under what authority these settlement payments have been made,” said Vecchione.

“If taxpayers are footing the bill to settle complaints of misconduct, the American public should know about it,” he said.

CoA Institute’s FOIA request seeks all records and communications relating to taxpayer funds used to settle complaints of misconduct against members of Congress and their staffs, he said. It requests all records, including financial records, relating to settlement payments made over the past 20 years for any allegation of misconduct, including sexual harassment, racial and religious discrimination, and discrimination against people with disabilities.

Vecchione told Big League Politics that he wonders if this case is an example of Congress insulating themselves from the laws they have passed.

The COA Institute requested records from the Department of Treasury because it is the agency that makes the payments, he said.

“That is what we call hunting where the ducks are,” he said.

“By and large FOIA doesn’t apply to congressional documents but it does apply to the Treasury Department,” he said. “There is extreme public interest right now from the public who want to know how these cases are adjudicated within Congress.”

“We want to know how much was paid, who was paid and for what”, he said.

“No one on Capitol Hill has told me anything, but I suspect there are other FIOA requests filed.”

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