People who argue that Congress needs to be a lot more transparent about sexual harassment cases may have a new Exhibit A—the Eric Massa case. Sources tell ABC News that the Congressional Office of Compliance quietly paid around $100,000 in taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims against the Democrat, who resigned from the House in 2010 after being accused of harassing and groping male staffers. Since 1995, the Office of Compliance has been able to use Treasury funds to settle workplace complaints in Congress, reports the New York Daily News.
Some $17 million has been paid out by the office, which refuses to disclose how many of the 264 separate cases involved harassment claims. Sources say the claims against Massa involved at least two young male staffers. "This is exactly why there should be transparency," Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice tells ABC. "There is no reason why these settlements, these accusations should be done in secret once they're adjudicated." She is co-sponsoring legislation to end the secret payouts. Lawmakers from both parties say they support requiring Congress to disclose the names of representatives who have harassment cases settled by the Office of Compliance. (Rep. John Conyers was hospitalized for stress-related issues after being accused of sexual misconduct by multiple staffers.)