A powerful Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee allegedly paid off a former female staffer with taxpayer money after she claimed that he fired her for rejecting his sexual advances.
The report from Buzzfeed News details numerous sexual allegations against Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who is the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, including allegations that he had staffers transport women they believed he was having affairs with and used congressional resources to fly the women around.
BuzzFeed News reports:
Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.
And the documents also reveal the secret mechanism by which Congress has kept an unknown number of sexual harassment allegations secret: A grinding, closely held process that left the alleged victim feeling, she told BuzzFeed News, that she had no option other than to stay quiet and accept a settlement offered to her.
In this case, one of Conyers’ former employees was offered a settlement, in exchange for her silence, that would be paid out of Conyers’ taxpayer-funded office budget. His office would “rehire” the woman as a “temporary employee” despite her being directed not to come into the office or do any actual work, according to the document. The complainant would receive a total payment of $27,111.75 over the three months, after which point she would be removed from the payroll, according to the document.
Two staffers alleged in their signed affidavits that Conyers used congressional resources to fly in women they believed he was having affairs with. Another said she was tasked with driving women to and from Conyers’ apartment and hotel rooms.
Matthew Peterson, a law clerk at the time who represented the complainant, called the process “disgusting.”
“It is a designed cover-up,” Peterson said. “You feel like they were betrayed by their government just for coming forward. It’s like being abused twice.”
The woman, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, said that Conyers told her she needed to touch his penis or find him another woman who would obey his sexual demands — she also said Conyers made her work at times other staffers did not have to keep him company.
The report adds:
One affidavit from a former female employee states that she was tasked with flying in women for the congressman. “One of my duties while working for Rep. Conyers was to keep a list of women that I assumed he was having affairs with and call them at his request and, if necessary, have them flown in using Congressional resources,” said her affidavit. (A second staffer alleged in an interview that Conyers used taxpayer resources to fly women to him.)
The woman said she told Conyers she was married and not interested in pursuing a sexual relationship, according to the affidavit. She said she was told many times by constituents that it was well-known that Conyers had sexual relationships with his staff, and said she and other female staffers felt this undermined their credibility.
“I am personally aware of several women who have experienced the same or similar sexual advances made towards them by Rep[.] John Conyers,” she said in her affidavit.
Another female employee also attested that she witnessed Conyers’ advances, and said she was asked to transport women to him. “I was asked on multiple occasions to pick up women and bring them to Mr. Conyers[‘] apartment, hotel rooms, etc.”
One of Conyers’ former staffers said this story would not “do shit to him,” adding that the congressman is “untouchable.”
Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed in a statement to BuzzFeed News that she did not know anything regarding Conyers’ sexual misconduct.
“The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation that will provide much-needed transparency on these agreements and make other critical reforms,” Pelosi said. “I strongly support her efforts.”