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Sen. Tim Kaine Calls For Public Release of Senate’s Sexual Harassment Claims & Settlements

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From Sen. Tim Kaine’s office:

KAINE CALLS FOR PUBLIC RELEASE OF SENATE’S SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS & SETTLEMENTS

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine sent a letter to the Senate Office of Compliance (OOC) this week requesting information on the number of sexual harassment claims filed against Senators, members of their personal staff, and committee staff, along with the amount of monetary settlements that were reached in harassment cases. In the letter, Kaine wrote that he will publicly release any information he receives to help determine the scope of the problem and develop solutions. The information requested by Kaine would not breach any confidentiality agreement between the parties or reveal the identities of the survivors and the accused. His letter comes on the heels of reports of sexual harassment claims settled using taxpayer dollars in the House of Representatives and asks for full transparency in the Senate as Congress grapples with solutions to this widespread issue.

“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.

“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,” Kaine continued. “The right response, however, requires disclosure of the extent of the problem and information about the resolutions the parties reached.”

The full text of the letter appears below. A copy of the letter is available here.

Susan Tsui Grundmann, Executive Director

Office of Compliance

John Adams Building
110 2nd Street SE, Room LA 200
Washington, DC 20540-1999

December 6, 2017

Dear Ms. Tsui Grundmann,

We are alarmed by reports that Members of Congress and their staffs have often settled accusations of sexual harassment under the Congressional Accountability Act, which has been criticized for a lack of transparency. To be sure, Congress is only one of the many institutions that has come under scrutiny for unacceptable behavior that includes sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. 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.

While individuals, corporations, and industries alike have started to reexamine the policies and cultures that enable this behavior, our response as leaders of the country’s democratic institutions has far wider consequences. 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.

The right response, however, requires disclosure of the extent of the problem and information about the resolutions the parties reached. While your office publishes some data about the number and types of complaints it receives, that information can only be helpful within the right context. Accordingly, we seek information about how much this issue has affected the U.S. Senate. Specifically, we request the following information, which should not breach any confidentiality agreement between the parties or the identities of the survivors and the accused:

  1. The number of sexual harassment claims filed under the Congressional Accountability Act between 2007 and 2017 against a) individual Members of the U.S. Senate, b) their personal staffs, and, c) committee staff;
  2. The number of claims against Members of the U.S. Senate and their personal and/or committee staffs that ended in some form of resolution; and
  3. If resolved by monetary settlement, the total paid to resolve such claims.

In the interest of transparency, 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.

Admittedly, the challenges we face to resolve these widespread problems appears daunting, as each successive week reveals another leader, celebrity, or media personality accused of reprehensible behavior. Viewing the data behind the problem, however, will shed light on the issue and help us develop solutions to combat sexual harassment and ensure true accountability. We trust that you can provide that information.

Thank you for your time and attention to this request.

Sincerely,

TIM KAINE