A controversial long-standing Congressional policy that allowed lawmakers to pay off harassment accusers with taxpayer funds is finally being reversed. The new policy forces lawmakers who access the funds for payoffs to publicize not only their names, but also the details of the harassment claims made. It also prevents lawmakers from using taxpayer money to pay for settlements full-stop.
• Although lawmakers won’t be allowed to use taxpayer money to pay off settlements in the long-term, they will still be able to use it temporarily. The new bill grants lawmakers a period of 90 days to pay back the money, after the funds are dispersed to the victim.
• With the Congress’ Office of Compliance paying out a total of $17 million dollars in settlements over the past 20 years, this is an impactful move that will influence American citizens directly, if only in a small way.
• The changes in policy are also being instituted to encourage transparency and prevent lawmakers from using the COC money as a “shush fund.” Some analysts claim the move is also a direct response to the current mountain of accusations against leaders like Rep. John Conyers.
• Despite positive intentions, there are concerns. Civil rights lawyers are calling the policy changes inherently dangerous because it will prevent victims from coming forward for fear of having their information made public. This includes their names as well as the details of their claim.
• The new policy is retroactive, reversing confidentiality orders on past accusations and making a swarth of sensitive information available to the public. This is a double-edged sword; it will expose problem lawmakers for good, but may give victims undesired media attention.
• The bill was officially introduced on Thursday, January 18, but has yet to be officially voted in by Congress. If it does fully pass, changes will become effective almost immediately.
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How do you feel about the names and other information concerning accusers and accused being made public information?