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As I See It

Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for our handsy lawmakers

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We’re hearing allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the U.S. Congress. If true, such behavior is deplorable. But so too is the system for compensating victims. Because Congress actually budgets some of our tax money to pay off those who allege sexual misconduct by its members. $17 million in pubic money has been paid out since 1997 to settle workplace disputes on Capitol Hill. It is basically a sexual harassment slush fund. To be fair, most of the complaints are toward other U.S. government employees rather than members of Congress, and not all involve sexual harassment. The money also pays to cover complaints over pay and workplace safety. But still, our tax money is being spent to silent those who accuse members of Congress of bad behavior. Michigan Congressman John Conyers recently settled a claim with a former staff member who accused her boss of sexual misconduct. That money didn’t come from the slush fund, but rather from Conyer’s office budget, which also is paid for by taxpayers. And under the current system, there is no way to track just how much of our money has been spent silencing victims. The Office of Compliance, which pays out the settlements, doesn’t track them by category, so it is impossible to see how much money taxpayers are doling out to sexual assault victims. This system needs to change. If members of Congress are accused of bad behavior, it should be up to them, not us, to settle their case.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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