Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas reportedly used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former communications director. He is the only known member of Congress to have used the taxpayer fund to settle a harassment lawsuit.
On Dec. 1, the House Committee Chairman, GOP Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi, disclosed during a closed-door meeting that only one member of Congress had used a taxpayer-funded account from the Office of Compliance to settle a harassment complaint in the last five years. Harper added that the settlement amounted to $84,000.
Sources familiar with the matter said that it was Farenthold, a Texas lawmaker elected to the House in 2010, Politico reports.
In December 2016, Farenthold's former communications director, Lauren Greene, filed a lawsuit against him for gender discrimination, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Greene alleged that Farenthold had told other staffers that he had sexual fantasies about her and that he directly made suggestive comments.
"Farenthold regularly drank to excess, and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on 'red head patrol to keep him out of trouble,'" Green's lawsuit stated.
Greene alleged she confronted Farenthold for inappropriate behavior in June 2014 and that she was then improperly fired.
Farenthold would not confirm or deny whether he used $84,000 from the OOC account to settle Greene's complaint.
"While I 100 percent 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.
Les Alderman, Greene's attorney, released a statement that his client had prepared in December 2016 but never released.
The statement said that Farenthold "adamantly denies that he engaged in any wrongdoing."
The Office of Congressional Ethics had probed the matter and informed the House Ethics Committee "there is not substantial reason to believe that Representative Farenthold sexually harassed or discriminated against [ex-staffer Lauren Greene], or engaged in an effort to intimidate, take reprisal against, or discriminate against [Greene] for opposing such treatment, in violation of House rules and federal law."
Farenthold has a net worth of $2.4 million. On July 24, the Texas lawmaker drew controversy when he suggested that he would duel with GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine for her opposition to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
"Some of the people that are opposed to this, they're some female senators from the Northeast," Farenthold told the local radio station KEYS. "If it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style."
He was reportedly referring to a duel in 1804 when former Vice President Aaron Burr killed Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
On July 25, Collins was caught on a hot microphone responding to Burr's challenge.
"Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel? ... so unattractive it's unbelievable," Collins told a fellow lawmaker, according to CNN.
Later that day, Collins announced that she and Farenthold had apologized to each other for their remarks.
"I received a handwritten apology from Rep. Farenthold late this morning," Collins said. "I accept his apology, and I offer him mine."