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As sexual harassment rocks Washington, Ron DeSantis joins calls to bar settlements with taxpayer dollars

Florida Republican is introducing legislation.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. (Associated Press)
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. (Associated Press)
Published Nov. 27, 2017

WASHINGTON – Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis has joined calls to remove the secrecy surrounding sexual harassment cases involving members of congress and to bar the use of taxpayer money to settle claims.

"Settlements paid with tax dollars should not be kept secret. Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent," DeSantis said in a statement announcing he would file legislation, which would also require reimbursement by congressional members and staff whose misconduct has been paid off.

"Members of Congress cannot be allowed to use the American people's money as a personal slushfund to cover wrongdoing," said DeSantis, R-Palm Coast and a potential candidate for governor next year.

Other lawmakers have stepped forward as well, and Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Barbara Comstock, R-Va., are leading an effort that would unmask the accused.

The secret process came under scrutiny following allegations of harassment by Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. Buzzfeed reported on documents showing a 2015 complaint against Conyers was settled.

All told, more than $17 million in taxpayer money has been paid out since 1997. (The $27,000 came from Conyer's office budget, according to Buzzfeed.)

Conyers has denied the allegations (though acknowledged the payment) but on Sunday said he would set aside as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.