The Great Pervert Purge has begun in the Washington Capitol — and more heads will be rolling any day now.
So far this week, three elected federal lawmakers have fallen to sex charges: Rep. Al Franken (D-MN), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ).
Now, one senator wants to open the floodgates. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is asking the Senate to give him information about sexual harassment claims and settlements against senators and their staffers.
“I plan to publicly disclose this information because I believe it will provide some insight into the scope of the problem and help determine solutions for preventing and addressing future incidents,” Kaine wrote in his request to the Senate Office of Compliance, which handles congressional workplace complaints.
The Virginia Democrat said sexual misconduct would continue in Congress if reports of such actions are hidden away, as they are now. The Office of Compliance has a complicated procedure for women to report sexual misconduct — one that is more geared toward keeping the alleged perpetrator masked than helping the victim
The office last month released data showing more than $17 million in taxpayer funds was paid to settle cases of sexual harassment (and racial discrimination) last year involving lawmakers and staff.
“This pervasive problem continues to serve as a barrier to ensure true gender equality. At a more personal level, it signals the failure of our society to guarantee even the basic safety and dignity of our colleagues, classmates, friends, family, and neighbors,” Kaine wrote in a statement on Thursday.
“Indeed, how we respond establishes the standard for others. A lax or indifferent response, marked only by symbolic changes, signals that we consider the issue a low priority. But a strong response that seeks to establish true accountability will hopefully encourage others to follow,” he said.
The House Ethics Committee has also asked the office to release information about House members and staffers.
But not all info would be released. While Kaine pledged “transparency,” he said information that would “breach any confidentiality agreement between the parties or the identities of the survivors and the accused” would not be released.
It’s been a busy week on Capitol Hill.
Franken faced allegations from eight women before he took the Senate floor on Thursday to announce that while he’s always been “a champion of women,” he was going to step down rather than wait for a Senate Ethics Committee to rule on the matter. Rep. John Conyers, the longest serving member in the House, faced numerous allegations that he sexually accosted former staffers, and even paid one $27,000 to keep quiet. And Rep. Trent Franks, well, he says he’s leaving office because he asked two former staffers if they’d act as surrogate mothers, but rumors have swirled for years about the pug-faced lawmaker, so who knows.
That makes two Democrats and a Republican — in a week.
There are others in the cloak room, like Rep. Ruben Kihuen, Nevada Democrat. Last year, a 25-year-old woman left her job on his campaign because she says he repeatedly propositioned her for dates and sex. Kihuen said on Friday, “I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable,” but added that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) knew about the allegations before he ran for office.
And The New York Times last week reported that Rep. Blake Farenthold, Texas Republican, used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim against him.
Chaos is descending on Capitol Hill, but there is method in the madness. Democrats had to sacrifice Franken if they hope to derail Judge Roy Moore, a Senate candidate in Alabama who has been accused of sexual misconduct. They couldn’t seek to hold Moore to high standards if they turned a blind eye toward Franken.
Talk show host Laura Ingraham succinctly summed up the Democrats’ goal.
“They’ve come down with a sudden case of feverish morality, but what it really is nothing more than a political calculation by the Dems. It sets the precedent for the Democrats to try to drive Roy Moore from office should he win the Alabama Senate race. And, two, this is the next step in the quest to impeach President Trump,” she said on Fox News.
So this is over. Not by a long shot.