â€śI want to be clear that I didnâ€™t do anything wrong, but I also donâ€™t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this.â€ť That is what embattled Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said last month when he promised to repay the $84,000 made in a settlement to a former aide who had accused him of sexual harassment and other improper conduct. He told a Corpus Christi TV station on Dec. 4 that he would take out a personal loan and probably give a check to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., later that week.
Given the tawdry nature of Farentholdâ€™s time in Congress, it comes as no surprise that he has failed to make good on that promise. The inexplicable excuse from his spokeswoman was that on the advice of counsel he was waiting to see what changes the House would make to the Congressional Accountability Act before repaying the treasury.
Hereâ€™s a better idea: Keep the money, but do your constituents and Congress a favor and resign immediately. Farentholdâ€™s continued service is an embarrassment and discredits the claims of Republican leaders that they wonâ€™t tolerate sexual harassment.
Revelations of the use of $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a 2014 lawsuit brought by his former communications director, Lauren Greene, resulted in renewed scrutiny. The House Ethics Committee formed an investigative subcommittee to examine. Greeneâ€™s claims. (The investigation has since expanded to look at other allegations, including improper use of official resources for campaign purposes and whether Farenthold made false statements to the committee.) The New York Times detailed an office culture rife with sexual innuendo and verbal abuse, and another former staffer - a man - came forward with claims of mistreatment. Farenthold announced he would not run for reelection, acknowledging his â€śconstituents deserve betterâ€ť than the way he has conducted himself in office.
He got that right, yet there have been few demands from members of his party to resign, though Ryan still thinks he should repay the $84,000. That forbearance is a disappointing contrast with Democratic leaders who properly signaled in the case of now- former Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., that no tolerance for sexual harassment means no tolerance.