Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has asked the Senate to turn over information about the number of sexual harassment claims and settlements against both senators and their staffers. He sent his letter sent the same day that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced his resignation amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Kaine, who was the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, told the Senate Office of Compliance—the office tasked with handling congressional workplace complaints—that “in the interest of transparency,” he plans to release the data, but said he won’t release information that would “breach any confidentiality agreement between the parties or the identities of the survivors and the accused.”
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.
Kaine argued that the problem of sexual misconduct will continue to persist in the Senate if information about misdeeds continues to be held under lock and key. According to The Hill, Kaine stated:
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.
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 was not the only legislator to ask for the same information. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Christopher Coons (D-DE), who lead the Senate Ethics Committee, made the same request on Friday, as did the House Ethics Committee.
Their calls come after the Office of Compliance released data that showed more than $17 million in taxpayer funds went toward paying settlements involving Capitol Hill employees, which include a range of workplace violations like allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
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