FACT Releases Worst Ethics Violators of 2018, House and Senate GOP Leadership Top the List
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
Ethics Watchdog Says Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell
Have Not Adequately Protected Victims of Sexual Harassment
The non-partisan ethics watchdog group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), today, released its annual worst ethics violators of 2018. This year’s list includes improper fundraising, covering-up workplace harassment and abuse, the running of an illegal “Scam PAC,” disseminating classified and/or false information and failing to report the loss of taxpayer funds. The top violators, however, are House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for failing to adequately protect congressional staff from sexual and other forms of harassment.
Over a year ago, FACT asked congressional leaders to release the names of all the Members of Congress tied to the $17 million in taxpayer funds that the Office of Compliance (OOC) has paid out to victims of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination over the past 20 years. The sexual harassment bill the House and Senate recently passed is a welcome step in addressing this pervasive problem in Congress. However, FACT maintains that until congressional leaders actually names the namesof those who have already used taxpayer money for these settlements, this systemic problem will only get worse.
“The American people have a right to know if their elected representatives in Congress used taxpayer funds to settle harassment claims. The citizens are the ‘employers’ of Congress and for far too long have been denied the ability to hold their ‘employees’ accountable for illegal behavior, yet have been forced to pay for it,” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). “Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now has an opportunity to act further and we will be encouraging her to finally bring an end to this systematic cover-up. Every day that goes by without releasing the names of Members who have received taxpayer money to settle harassment and discrimination claims is another day of cover-up and another day more innocent people are put at risk of becoming victims.”
FACT’s other worst ethics violators of 2018 include:
On April 5, FACT asked the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate former Representative Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) for the cover-up of physically abusive and threatening behavior by her former chief of staff, Ted Baker. After Esty learned of Mr. Baker’s disturbing behavior—which included physically beating, sexually harassing and threatening to kill another one of the Congresswoman’s staff members, Esty tried to cover it up. After learning of Baker’s actions, Esty employed him for another three months, and gave him $5,000 per month in compensation and other financial benefits after he left her office. Additionally, Esty gave Baker a positive job recommendation and entered into a confidential severance and release agreement with him.
On October 29, FACT filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics against Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) for using the Senate vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to improperly solicit campaign donations. The Ethics rules require Senators to act on merit, and not for personal or political gain. Thus, Senators are prohibited from campaign fundraising tied to their official duties. While Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) later apologized for sending a fundraising email tied to the Kavanaugh vote, Senator Warren was surprised to learn of FACT’s complaint by a moderator in her Senate debate and falsely called the violation, ‘frivolous’ in a desperate attempt to make it go away.
On July 25, FACT asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for an investigation into Keeping America in Republican Control (KAIRC) PAC for failing to register as a political committee, failing to publicly acknowledge on its website that it is a political committee and failing to distribute over $1.5 million raised to any federal candidates or federal committees. KAIRC PAC is run by former Rhode Island Republican congressional candidate Russell Taub.
On August 23, FACT filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics against U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL). FACT’s complaint maintains that Senator Nelson either improperly disclosed classified information or disseminated false information when he claimed that voting machines throughout Florida were currently compromised as a result of Russian meddling. Federal law and Senate rules prohibit Members from publicly disclosing classified information.
On July 19, FACT filed a complaint with the OCE against Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY) for the failure to report $120,000 in taxpayer funds tied to equipment belonging to her office that went missing in 2016. The incident was first reported by the House Inspector General as part of the investigation into the sordid House IT scandal. This scandal involved nefarious actions of a former Democratic congressional IT aide, Imran Awan, who was paid to do IT work for several Democratic Members of Congress. Awan’s brother, Abid, was employed by Congresswoman Clarke and made the $120,000 worth of purchases for computer and electronics equipment, including iPods and Apple TVs. These devices had no apparent use or value to Clarke’s office. Even when Representative Clarke was alerted to an ongoing scheme to steal computer equipment, she not only failed toreport the missing funds, she simply wrote off the funds as a loss.
This year’s Honorable Mention Award goes to Hamilton, Ohio County Clerk of Courts and former congressional candidate, Aftab Pureval.
On October 1, FACT asked the FEC to investigate Hamilton (Ohio) County Clerk of Courts and former congressional candidate, Aftab Pureval, for illegally and deliberately using money from his county campaign account to fund his congressional campaign. Pureval, who was the Democratic candidate in Ohio’s First Congressional District, spent over $21,000 from his county campaign fund on expenses related to his congressional race. Those expenses included campaign software, media and consulting services, as well as a poll. While Pureval admitted to and was fined by the Ohio Elections Commission for improperly paying a photographer, there are still unanswered questions about some $20,000 in county campaign funds being improperly spent on other campaign services related to his federal race. FACT will continue to press the FEC to act on these violations and apparent cover-up.
FACT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: http://www.factdc.org/.