On Monday, Buzzfeed reported that Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., paid off a sexual harassment accuser more than $27,000 in taxpayer funds in 2015. According to the report, the former employee alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”
“In her complaint, the former employee said Conyers repeatedly asked her for sexual favors and often asked her to join him in a hotel room. On one occasion, she alleges that Conyers asked her to work out of his room for the evening, but when she arrived the congressman started talking about his sexual desires,” BuzzFeed said. “She alleged he then told her she needed to ‘touch it,’ in reference to his penis, or find him a woman who would meet his sexual demands.”
According to Buzzfeed:
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.
“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” the former employee told Buzzfeed in a phone interview.
Buzzfeed also described what happens in cases like this, and it’s quite revealing:
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.
The draft agreement viewed by BuzzFeed News was unsigned, but congressional employment records match the timing and amounts outlined in the document. The woman left the office and never went public with her story.
The process was “disgusting,” said Matthew Peterson, who worked as a law clerk representing the complainant, and who listed as a signatory to some of the documents.
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It gets worse, however. One former employee said she was tasked with flying women in to satisfy Conyers.
“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,” she said in her affidavit.
And, she said, Conyers also made advances toward her.
“I was driving the Congressman in my personal car and was resting my hand on the stick shift. Rep. Conyers reached over and began to caress my hand in a sexual manner,” she said.
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.
The Buzzfeed report also noted:
Conyers’ office has a history of ethical run-ins. In 2016, his former chief of staff Cynthia Martin pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property after she refused to reimburse $16,500 that was mistakenly deposited in her account. A preliminary investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics found that Conyers continued to pay Martin more than $13,000 per month when she was supposedly on unpaid leave.
In 2006, two former aides complained that Conyers made them babysit his children, run errands, and work on his reelection campaign while drawing their congressional salaries. There was also a bizarre incident in 2005 when 60 Thanksgiving turkeys, given to his staff to disperse to people, may have gone missing.
Conyers’ wife, former Detroit city councilor Monica Conyers, was sentenced to three years in prison over bribery charges in 2010. (One of the documents alleged Conyers began “aggressively acting out his sexual harassment behavior” following this.) Last year the couple renewed their vows.
The Daily Caller said the bombshell report comes “just days after it was revealed that the Congressional Office Of Compliance spent $17 million of taxpayer funding on harassment settlements, including for sexual harassment.”
Just think, these are the people who routinely claim Republicans are engaging in an alleged “war on women.”
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