Earlier this week, columnist Cal Thomas called attention to one of the lesser-known perks available to members of Congress, and I admit, I didn't know this:

It should surprise no one that when it comes to sexual harassment, members of Congress and their staffs are treated differently from the rest of us.

The Washington Post notes a law in place since 1995 under which anyone accusing a lawmaker of sexual harassment can file a lawsuit, but only if they first agree to go through counseling and mediation, possibly lasting several months.

If you think that's a double standard and outrageous, it gets worse. Should a settlement occur — and many don't for the same reason women are fearful of accusing bosses in every profession — the member doesn't pay. You and I do. The money comes from a special U.S. Treasury fund, and the payments are confidential.

Nineteen ninety-five? Hmmm. Who was President then?

Right. But Bill Clinton didn't get a shot at Monica Lewinsky, she said, until November of 1995. If any one Washington figure motivated this law, I'd bet it was Bob Packwood, whose behavioral patterns were noted before the 1992 election, though Packwood managed to hold onto his Senate seat until 1995.

The WaPo explains how this measure is supposed to work, or to not work:

Grassley's bill established the 20-person Office of Compliance to adjudicate disputes and handle harassment complaints.

Yep. Chuck Grassley (spellchecker just suggested "Grossly"), Iowa Republican, shepherded this thing through the Congress. You know it was set up by a Republican because the Office of Compliance has only twenty staffers instead of a hundred fifty or so.

The law gives victims 180 days after the offending incident to initiate complaints. Victims must agree to go through counseling, which take typically takes 30 days.

After that, victims who want to continue begin 30 days of mediation, which is handled by a neutral mediator. If the problem is still unresolved, they can pursue an OOC administrative hearing or file a federal lawsuit against their harasser.

The confidential dispute resolution process can be made public only if the case is ruled in the victim's favor, after it goes through administrative or judicial proceedings.

You might think this ordeal would discourage anyone from complaining, about sexual harassment or anything else. Not so, says the paper:

Between 1997 and 2014, the U.S. Treasury has paid $15.2 million in 235 awards and settlements for Capitol Hill workplace violations, according to the congressional Office of Compliance. The statistics do not break down the exact nature of the violations.

Because of course they don't.

Congressional misbehavior has been mostly off the front page of late, what with Hollywood, which is basically Government for Pretty People, going through its own painful revelations of late. About the only thing we can learn from this is that the offenses are equally heinous and equally unoriginal, whether committed by Republicans in Washington or Democrats in Hollywood, or all those folks in between who find themselves with an itch and someone else lower in the power structure who can be persuaded, or forced, to scratch it.

The Vent

  1 November 2017

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 Copyright © 2017 by Charles G. Hill