Report: U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold Settled Harassment Claim With Taxpayer Funds
Farenthold, a Republican from Corpus Christi, has served in the U.S. House since 2011. The settlement stems from a 2014 case brought by Lauren Greene, a former Farenthold staffer. Both parties agreed to drop the case in 2015, but the terms of the settlement were not clear at the time.
After Politico published its report Friday, Farenthold said in a statement, "While I 100% support more transparency with respect to claims against members of Congress, I can neither confirm nor deny that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question."
Farenthold's settlement is a small part of a much larger well of money used to settle workplace issues stemming from the U.S. House. On Capitol Hill, more than $17 million in taxpayer funds has been spent since 1997 to settle all kinds of workplace disputes — among them sexual harassment.
The fund, managed by the Office of Compliance, is under heightened public scrutiny following a wave of sexual assault accusations against members of Congress. The account was meant to protect the workplace rights of congressional staffers. But by keeping cases confidential, critics say the public money is being used to shelter the unnamed sexual harassers, potentially endangering more victims.
Following Friday's report, Farenthold drew sharp criticism from some Texas Republicans, including Michael Cloud, a former Victoria County GOP chairman and the only Republican currently challenging Farenthold in next year's Republican primary.
“If allegations prove true, this represents a gross betrayal of the public trust — and highlights the need to elect people of integrity who will work to restore public confidence in our halls of Government,” Cloud said.
Alex Arriaga and Cassandra Pollock contributed to this report.