Ethics Committee Seeks Records on All House Harassment Claims

(Bloomberg) -- The House Ethics Committee requested information on all claims of sexual harassment or misconduct against current members of the chamber and their employees, suggesting the panel is conducting a broad probe of congressional misconduct.

A Friday letter from the panel to the Office of Compliance, a congressional office that handles harassment complaints, seeks records involving any claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation and other banned workplace conduct. The letter was signed by committee Chairwoman Susan Brooks, an Indiana Republican, and the panel’s top Democrat, Ted Deutch of Florida.

Last week, the committee announced it was investigating sexual harassment allegations against Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, after reports that he reached a $27,000 taxpayer-funded settlement with a former staffer who said she was terminated for rejecting his sexual advances. Conyers admitted to the settlement but denied any charges of sexual harassment.

Conyers’s case also highlights Congress’s opaque, drawn out process for dealing with harassment cases. Democratic lawmakers have backed a bill, the "Me Too" Act, that would dramatically restructure the process for sexual harassment cases and force lawmakers to pay settlements out of pocket.

After several days of advocating to let the ethics committee process to take its course, several Democrats, led by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, called on Conyers to resign on Thursday. House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, also said Conyers should leave Congress. Arnold Reed, a lawyer for Conyers, said he would not be pressured into stepping down by Pelosi.

Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, is also facing an ethics probe over sexual harassment allegations.

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