The predators of power are being unveiled. It started with Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and has exploded in the corridors of Washington lawmakers. Their alleged sexual abuse due to a complicit system that protects them is unraveling by the day.
A swift cultural shift is bringing notable names to the public’s attention. People in the highest spheres of power are toppling as women, credible or not, begin to speak out in ever-growing numbers. The willingness of the general public to believe these stories has increased dramatically.
Both Republicans and Democrats are struggling to deal with sexual harassment claims and subsequent fallout among their ranks. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is the latest man to face the new public scrutiny that goes far beyond politics.
Many of these men are being convicted in the court of public opinion. It will be interesting to see if there are court cases.
The list of prominent politicians ranges from Senator Al Franken to allegations made against freshman Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada. The list is subject to daily changes in this rapidly moving storyline.
Two women have accused Rep. Kihuen of sexual harassment. The first, a former campaign staffer alleges the freshman congressman sexually harassed her in an ongoing matter during his run in 2016. The second woman, a lobbyist, accused him in December of unwanted sexual advances groping her on three separate occasions while still a state senator. A congressional investigation has been launched to search out the facts.
Several Democratic leaders have asked him to resign, but he refuses. He said, “I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable.”
Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings is another case similar to Kihuen’s. A former staffer accused him of sexually harassing her for two years when she worked at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. She went on to allege he threatened to have her fired when she resisted him. She actually sued Hastings and the commission and settled out of court in 2014. That cost the taxpayer $220,000.
Hastings continues to vehemently deny all allegations. He claims he had no knowledge of a monetary settlement and had actually been removed from the lawsuit by name. He continues to serve in Congress.
Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas was sued by his former communications director for gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. She received a taxpayer settlement of $84,000. The congressman claimed he did nothing wrong and would pay back the settlement money to the American people.
The House Ethics Committee didn’t find that to be enough. They have reopened the investigation. Farenthold announced in mid-December he would not seek re-election next year.
The most provocative case is that of Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona. His troubles began when two female aides claimed he created an uncomfortable workplace environment. His problems are unusual. He allegedly asked them to be surrogates for him and bear his child. That could obviously include sexual relations.
Franks never denied the accusations, but added he never “physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff.” That didn’t cut it with the House Ethics Committee.
The committee announced plans to investigate Franks’ behavior. He promptly said he would step aside. His resignation was originally supposed to take effect on January 31, 2018.
Apparently that was not good enough for some people in Washington and his home state. He quickly scrapped that idea and announced he would resign immediately.
Then there is the national sensation of Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. The former ‘Saturday Night Live’ comedian tuned U.S. Senator made the biggest headlines.
In Franken’s case, at least seven women accused him of groping, forcible kissing and unwanted advances. His situation may have been the shortest on record for a national politician.
Franken apologized to some of the accusers while denying others. It made no difference. Although he originally said he was open for any investigation, he quickly backtracked on that.
The allegations took on a life of their own and several prominent Democrats told Al he had to go. On December 7, an appropriate date, Franken announced he would resign, but left the dangling resignation to be “in the coming weeks.”
American taxpayers should stay tuned and watch their wallets.
Finally there is the “dignified” longtime Michigan congressman, John Conyers, Jr. He was faced with no less than four women who claimed he groped them or made sexual advances and inappropriate remarks toward them.
It was revealed that one of those women received a secret settlement from taxpayers for $27,000. That blew the top off his career and reputation all at once.
Conyers reluctantly resigned after over 50-years in the House. He quickly endorsed his little-known son for his seat. The congressman’s lawyer promptly told the assembled press that his client had no plans to pay back taxpayers for the secret settlement. The justification was that ethics attorneys “cleared” the payout.