STUMP » Articles » Nope, Not #MeToo...But Also Not Surprised at Sexual Harassment in Legislatures » 6 November 2017, 10:16

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Nope, Not #MeToo...But Also Not Surprised at Sexual Harassment in Legislatures  


6 November 2017, 10:16

Seems like there’s a sexual harassment feeding frenzy right now (ok, perhaps not the best metaphor…)

I don’t have personal sexual harassment tales beyond bra-snapping in middle school days. Never had an issue in the office myself. There have been a few scandals in insurance in general, but I have yet to hear of sleeping one’s way to Chief Actuary.

Certain careers and fields seem to attract pervs & grabby-hands people. Let’s ignore those who abuse their power to get at kids for right now, and just stick to adults. Entertainment is a huge industry, with this problem.

And so is academia. And politics.

With regards to politics: why should we be surprised that those who are profligate re: money matters may also be lacking in sexual restraint?


Let’s start with Illinois — Sexual harassment charges rock Springfield

The clearest charges came from Kady McFadden, who runs the political operation of Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter as the unit’s deputy director.

​ In a piece yesterday in The Hill, a Washington news website, about mistreatment of politically active women nationally, McFadden said: “I’ve had hands up my skirt. I’ve had my hair pulled. There’s just kind of nothing you can really do. . . .It’s probably hard to find a woman in Springfield who doesn’t have a story about what’s happened to them.”

In a phone interview this morning, McFadden stood by the quotes and described herself as “one of many. . . .It’s not just sexual harassment. It’s a culture. It’s less about my body being violated and more about the ability of women to contribute their thoughts and policy.”

In a particularly telling comment, McFadden told me she was surprised she was quoted at all. Harassment is so common here that, “I didn’t think I had anything original to say.”
Without naming names, the letter talks about “crude jokes and untoward advances” at a popular Springfield bar; how “a female staffer leading a complex bill negotiation” got a late-night text from a key male lawmaker asking her what she was doing, and how a candidate “slides his hands across the body of his fundraising consultant” and then refuses to pay her fee because she declined his advances.

The most incendiary charge: “a male legislator—a chamber leader—asking a female staffer out to dinner under the guise of offering mentorship, then proceeding to explain his ‘open marriage’ to her and ask if she’s single.” He is not identified, nor is it clear whether he was one of the top four legislative leaders or held a lower post.

Here’s the issue with politics versus business. Politics is always zero sum. Somebody gets this particular office — means somebody else doesn’t get it.

And the problem is that a lot of people like the power. It’s not “just a job” to them.


So here are a few states where accusations are being slung around in the legislatures.

Kentucky: Bevin calls for resignation of House members involved in sexual harassment allegations

Gov. Matt Bevin, making his first public comments on a sexual harassment scandal that has rocked the state House of Representatives, called Saturday for “the immediate resignation of every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case, who is a party to trying to hide this type of behavior.”

Bevin, in a hastily called news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, mentioned no one by name. The Republican governor called the allegations serious and reprehensible.
Bevin made the public statement after Republican Rep. C. Wesley Morgan of Richmond had called Saturday for the resignation of Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover, accusing him and party leaders of concealing sexual harassment allegations against Hoover and three other Republican legislators.

Hoover resigned his speakership on Sunday. Some are using it as an opportunity to try to push off pension reform. I’ll address that in a later post.

Illinois: State lawmakers appoint inspector general amid harassment scandal:

A former federal prosecutor has been appointed as the special legislative inspector general of the Illinois General Assembly, as scandal swirls around how sexual harassment allegations are handled in Springfield.

The position had been vacant for over two years before the Legislative Ethics Commission voted unanimously to appoint Julie B. Porter during a closed-door meeting on Saturday.
She will be tasked with shoring up an institution that doesn’t even list sexual harassment as a violation of the state ethics act. She’ll also have to deal with a backlog of at least 27 complaints against members of the General Assembly, though it’s unclear if those accusations name legislators or their staffers — or what the nature of each allegation is.

California: Walters: Sexual harassment cases put heat on California legislative leaders

Some may have believed – or hoped – that the furor over sexual harassment in and around the state Capitol would soon fade away.


The initial letter complaining about harassment, signed by 140 women, has exploded with many more names and a spate of personal accounts.

The Los Angeles Times, which broke the initial story, and the Sacramento Bee have pursued the story aggressively, driving home the ingrained nature of the syndrome case-by-case.

It’s a well-deserved black eye for the Capitol community. It’s dominated by Democrats and liberal activists who purport to value gender equality and other “progressive” causes, yet it’s evident that sexism, sexual objectification and other obnoxious traits abound.

Over the years, specific cases of demands for sexual favors and other forms of harassment have been ignored or covered up, often with secret payoffs of victims.

I’m sure other states have such stories, too.


I am not shocked re: any of this crap, whether showbiz, academia, or politics. I’ve been to political events as a potential activist/fundraiser, back when I didn’t have quite so many obligations (or better things to do.) The people who do politics as their lifelong careers tend to be very unsavory.

Yes, it’s mainly men doing this (yes, Not All Men.. hell, not even a large percentage of men try this stuff. It just takes a few prolific assholes, and it just takes an important asshole like, say, Ted Kennedy.)

But anybody affecting shock, surprise, or “WELL I NEVER!” must be a lot younger than I am if I’m going to believe they’re sincere. I first voted in 1992 for Bill Clinton, and I was 18 at the time. By 2000, I was thoroughly disgusted by not only the Clintons, but also everybody who excused Bill Clinton’s shoddy behavior.

At around that time, I learned about the various other Democratic men’s shenanigans that had been going on for far longer. And purported feminists didn’t seem to have any issue with ole Teddy Kennedy, Chris Dodd, et. al. I guess those guys were their sleazebags, and so it was just fine.

This is not a particular party problem – it’s just a power problem in general.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline points to similar trouble at the union SEIU, and calls it liberal lechery, but there’s plenty of conservative lechery as well.

All it takes is doing it in a place where you’ve got media, etc., cover.


Because I live in New York, conservatives do not get cover for lechery, but it took quite a bit of sleaze for the troubles of Eliot Spitzer & Anthony Weiner to be uncovered around here. They’re not the only ones, but the ones that actually made national news. And the first had been governor, and the second was in the House of Representatives.

However, there has been issues with the New York Assembly in Albany (and not just in terms of sexual harassment.) It feeds into a post I’ll do later today, that of criminal officials and pensions.

From 2013: The Remarks of Speaker Sheldon Silver – Reforms to Assembly Policies Concerning Sexual Harassment:

Capitol, Speaker’s Conference Room
Monday, May 20, 2013 [4:30 pm]

I have just come from Democratic Conference where we had an open and frank discussion of the JCOPE report, our mishandling of the original sexual harassment complaints, and how we should move forward from here.

Standing here with me are Members of the Assembly Majority some of whom are part of a bipartisan working group I established several weeks ago – the Task Force on Sexual Harassment – which is charged with seeking outside professional counsel to assist in making recommendations on how to improve Assembly sexual harassment policies going forward.

These recommendations will be made as soon as practicable, hopefully before the end of this legislative session. I have insisted that at a minimum they must include:

Providing for an independent investigator and/or counsel to investigate sexual harassment complaints;
And making all Assembly Members and supervisory staff mandatory reporters of harassment;
In addition, I will be introducing legislation banning confidential settlements by all agencies of the state.

There seems to still be a few issues, as you’ll see in a NY Post story at the end of this post, but it did seem to tamp things down with the policy change.


Evidently, that 2013 spate of sexual harassment charges is impinging on an upstate race tomorrow:

“When I saw corruption and sexual harassment cover-ups I called on Sheldon Silver to resign.”
— Michael Kearns on Monday, October 23rd, 2017 in a television ad

Sexual harassment in the State Assembly

Kearns first called for Silver to resign in 2013. It was Kearns’ first full year in the Assembly.

Kearns chose to conference with the Democratic majority in the Assembly when he first took office in 2012. That lasted about a year.

Then news broke that Silver had helped cover up reports of sexual harassment in the State Assembly. A state ethics report accused former Assemblyman Vito Lopez of harassing at least eight women during his time in the chamber.

The report accused Silver and his staff of failing to properly investigate the sexual harassment claims against Lopez. Silver also approved a confidential settlement of more than $100,000 for two women who accused Lopez of harassment.

When the ethics report was released, Kearns called for Silver to resign. He also left the Democratic conference in the Assembly.

“I am a father with a teenage daughter,” Kearns wrote in The Buffalo News. “I must ask, ‘Would I trust my daughter’s welfare under Sheldon Silver’s leadership or supervision?’ The record is clear beyond a reasonable doubt: The answer is ‘no.’ “

Silver’s corruption charges

Kearns again called for Silver to resign in 2015.

Silver was arrested on federal corruption charges in January 2015. Federal prosecutors accused Silver of using his position as speaker to accept millions of dollars worth of bribes and kickbacks.

Kearns, who never re-joined the Democratic conference, called for Silver’s resignation the morning he was arrested.

“Secret settlements, sex scandals and now criminal allegations. All of the above should disqualify Silver from keeping leadership position,” Kearns said in a tweet minutes after Silver’s arrest.

At first, most Democratic Assembly members rallied behind Silver, their leader of two decades. Silver eventually stepped down after calls for his ouster mounted.

Kearns did not re-join the Democratic conference until Silver was convicted later that year. His conviction has since been overturned, but prosecutors are expected to bring a new case against the long-time assemblymember.

Our ruling

Kearns said when he “saw corruption and sexual harassment cover-ups I called on Sheldon Silver to resign.”

Kearns first called on Silver to resign in 2013. He even left the Democratic conference because he did not support Silver as speaker. His position never changed.

We rate his claim as True.

Well, that’s actually something of a surprise.

Kudos to Kearns. (And he’s a Democrat running under the Republican line, which makes this doubly interesting to me.)

Anyway, it sucks that these women had to put up with this crap, and this just adds to my incentive to avoid government employment.

RELATED STORIES: Politico: Sexual misconduct allegations rock statehouses

Sexual Harassment In State Capitols: Illinois

NYT: Sexual Misconduct in California’s Capitol is Difficult to Escape

NYPost: Cuomo ally forced out of state post after harassment claims

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