What Should Be Done About Congressional Sexual Harassers?
Last week it was reported that taxpayers have paid more than $17 million over the last 20 years to resolve claims of sexual harassment and other workplace abuses. There is no reason for these payments to come from taxpayer funds. Each person in Congress should pay for their own wrong doing. How else will they learn there is a cost to improper behavior.
The most egregious case is that of Alabama senator Ray Moore. The most troubling claim of sexual abuse comes from accusations of sexual misconduct toward women in their teens when he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. One accuser said Moore molested her when she was 14. Another said Moore assaulted her when she was a 16-year-old waitress after he offered to drive her home. Five others said Moore pursued romantic relationships with them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18. Moore has denied all charges and plans to stay in the race for reelection to Congress.
The list of alleged sexual abusers seems to grows each day with Al Franken the newest on the list. Last Thursday, a news anchor for a Los Angeles radio station, Leeann Tweeden, accused Franken of forcibly kissing and groping her in 2006, when they were on an overseas USO Tour to entertain American troops. She released a disturbing photo of Franken, a former Saturday Night Live star, appearing to grab her breasts while she was sleeping on the cargo flight home. Franken apologized to Tweeden, and said he would cooperate with an ethics committee inquiry, which lawmakers in both parties have demanded.
Our friends in Congress have always played by their own set of rules. Exhibit 1 is Senator Bob Menendez. Last week the federal bribery trial that began in 2012 ended with a deadlocked jury. Menendez dodged 18 counts against him or his co-defendant, a wealthy Florida eye doctor, who was accused of buying Menendez's influence by plying him with luxury vacations and campaign contributions.
Prosecutors would not say whether they plan to retry Menendez. But on the political front, forces were already mobilizing against him, with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately calling for an ethics investigation of him. The ethics committee said Thursday it would resume an inquiry into Menendez that started in 2012 and was deferred a year later because of the criminal investigation.
I could go on but we all know Congress is corrupt. The first time I was convinced of it was in 2005. A former lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, was convicted of fraud and bribery in an influence-peddling scandal that broke all barriers and involved many lawmakers. The pay for play system brought disgrace to the halls of Congress and ushered in a period of “soul-searching,” much as now with sexual harassment.
So, my question is how can Congress clean up its act whether it’s sexual harassment, bribery and fraud, influence peddling and other crimes? One thing is for sure. Sexual harassment training will do no good as I have blogged about before. The training programs tend to explain how to report harassment and do little to prevent it from happening again. Why? Because people who commit sexual harassment are born of a weak conscience with a moral compass that is upside down. These folks are borderline sociopaths. Their sense of right and wrong is mired in the muck of sleazy behavior and they often act thinking they won’t be caught – they are above the law and untouchable.
What should be the consequences for these bad behaviors?
My advice is for Congress to institute a series of monetary fines for criminal behavior after being found guilty by an investigation (i.e. the Ethics Committee). Hit them in the pocketbook, I say. Taxpayers should not pay for these abusive actions.
Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 20, 2017. Dr. Mintz is a Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Visit his website at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/.