U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, whose district includes parts of Bastrop and Caldwell counties, has reportedly used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint brought by his former spokeswoman.
The Corpus Christi Republican is the only known sitting member of Congress to have used the House account to pay an accuser, according to Politico, which broke the story Friday. NBC News subsequently confirmed the report.
The money came from a congressional Office of Compliance account, Politico and NBC reported.
“While I 100% support more transparency with respect to claims against members of Congress, I can neither confirm nor deny that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question,” Farenthold said in a statement provided to the American-Statesman and Politico, a Washington-based news website.
Former Victoria County Republican Party Chairman Michael Cloud is challenging Farenthold in the GOP primary, but has raised just $23,000 through September, the most recent federal campaign finance reports show.
“I think most taxpayers expect their tax dollars are going to better use,” Cloud said in an interview. “If the allegations prove true, it represents a grave betrayal of the public trust.”
No Democrat has filed to challenge Farenthold yet.
The $84,000 revelation is the latest entry in the cavalcade of scandal, sexual harassment and abuse claims in politics, media and entertainment in recent months.
In Washington alone, at least four other politicians have found themselves at the center of the storm. Just this week:
• Dallas-area U.S. Rep. Joe Barton announced he would not seek re-election after it emerged the GOP lawmaker had sent lewd messages to at least two women and that some were sent while he was still married.
• A sixth woman accused U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat and former comedian, of groping her while on USO tour, leading to new calls from liberal groups for his resignation.
• The Democratic leader in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, reversed course and called on Michigan Rep. John Conyers to resign after at least three women accused the longtime Democratic Detroit-area lawmaker of impropriety.
On that video, Trump told former show host Billy Bush that he could grope women and get away with it because of his fame: “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” he says on the recording. Subsequently, more than a dozen women stepped forward to allege Trump harassed or sexually assaulted them.
Such scandals don’t stop at the District of Columbia’s border.
A three-hour train ride north, executives at NBC News fired their $25 million anchorman, Matt Lauer, after an employee at the network stepped forward with allegations the longtime “Today Show” host sexually harassed her.
Lauer’s sacking came as both The New York Times and Variety, an entertainment trade publication, were reportedly preparing stories that examined Lauer’s behavior.
For talk-show-host-turned-congressman Farenthold, the Politico report published Friday revived memories of his history of questionable photographs and allegations of inappropriate behavior.
Political activists on Twitter quickly began recirculating an infamous 2009 photo of Farenthold in duck-printed pajamas standing next to a scantily clad model and recalled details of the lawsuit his former aide, Lauren Greene, brought three years ago.
Farenthold said in a statement in 2015, when the suit was settled and dismissed, that he denied wrongdoing and was “glad to put this behind me and move forward.”