Roy Exum: America’s ‘Shush’ Fund

Monday, November 20, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Michael Reagan, the son of one of our nation’s greatest presidents, wrote a wonderful op-ed piece on Sunday that explained why he believes the women who have stepped forward to allege they were once abused by Judge Roy Moore. He wrote that when he, a political consultant, is asked why the women waited 40 years to bring up the charges, “I tell them I didn’t reveal my sexual abuse for 34 years. It’s not something you’re dying to publicize, believe me.”

Another article, every bit as refreshing as an afternoon walk in yesterday’s brisk sunshine, was in the New York Times and listed the names and circumstance of 30 powerful men who have had similar allegations made in just the six weeks since Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein went down in flames.

Thanks to the heartening “#MeToo” campaign, both men and women are coming out in public to face and identify those who have wrongly used their power and positions to foist themselves on others. As more victims finally realize “it is okay to tell,” that they will never be held in contempt for a horror they never wanted, hopefully the creeps who prey on others will pay dearly.

On Thursday it was learned – quite unbelievably -- that not only is abuse rampant in Congress, our lawmakers actually have a taxpayer-funded “shush fund” that is called simply, the Office of Compliance. It was created by the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, and since then over $17 million has been quietly paid to make 268 incidents go just as quietly away. In fairness, other misdeeds such as racial, religious and disability complaints are also handled discreetly so the names of the members of Congress or the Senate are never muddled.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said she was molested as an aide before winning her seat in Congress. On a YouTube video now available, she bravely claims a chief of staff 30 years her senior in a Congressman’s office where she worked forcibly kissed her and shoved his tongue in her mouth. It took the media less than 30 minutes to learn it was Joe Holsinger, now deceased. “Many of us in Congress know what it’s like because Congress has been a breeding ground for a hostile work environment for far too long,” she said.

“I know what it’s like to keep these things hidden deep down inside,” Speier added. “I know what it’s like to feel that rush of humiliation and anger.”

The Congresswoman has been instrumental in a #MeTooCongress movement that will hopefully “… throw back the curtain on the repulsive behavior that until now has thrived in the dark without consequences,” Speier said and she is actively preparing new guidelines and mandatory training for all of those working in Congress.

On Sunday it appears the ‘Shush Fund’ will be short-lived. "We had a lot of consensus on the changes that need to be made," Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock said. "We're on the same page, and we're going to get mandatory training, universal, uniform anti-harassment, zero-tolerance policies in place. We are not going to allow members to have any kind of fund pay for their harassment. That is universally agreed on. And we are also going to have better policies for the victims."

The Virginia lawmaker added she found the allegations against Moore believable and said he should step away from the election. “For that matter, Al Franken can go hit the door with him."

A disturbing photo of the Minnesota Senator cupping the breasts of a sleeping woman during a USO trip flashed across the Internet last week and already this year the Office of Compliance has paid out $934,754 in eight separate incidents. Franken has now said, through a spokesman, he will not resign.

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell said that with the new changes and stricter rules, members of Congress will be forced to pay any sexual harassment cases out of pocket and – better yet – will do so with total transparency. "What infuriates me is these confidentiality agreements," Dingell admitted.

Alabama’s Moore, who hopes to earn a Senate seat in a special Dec. 12 election, has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing with anyone but in Reagan’s view the controversial jurist is guilty. “It’s true he has not been convicted in a court of law, and probably never could be. But he’s been declared guilty in the court of public opinion … I don’t want someone like him in the Senate any more than I want someone like Al Franken.”

White House spokesman Marc Short, appeared on “This Week” on ABC yesterday and confirmed President Donald Trump, who is well-accustomed to sexual allegations, will not campaign for Judge Moore because he is "uncomfortable" with Moore's rebuttal and “is leaving the matter up to the voters of Alabama."

"We have serious concerns about the allegations that have been made," Short said on the program. "The people of Alabama know best what to do."

In an unprecedented first, the three largest newspapers in Alabama had front-page editorials on Sunday urging “Alabama Voters Must Reject Roy Moore” and two separate groups of pastors were both for and against the embattled candidate.

For the record, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel resigned on Friday after being accused of sexually inappropriate comments and behavior toward a number of women. Florida Democratic state Senator Jeff Clemens has also resigned after a report that he had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.

Florida Republican state Senator Jack Latvala is being investigated by the Senate over allegations of harassment and groping. Latvala has denied the allegations.

In Kentucky, Jeff Hoover has resigned as Speaker of the House after unbecoming revelations but remains in the legislature.

The author Reagan had another great line: “Given that sexual predators of all kinds don’t commit a single sleazy act of molestation, assault or harassment and then retire, we’ll probably be hearing from other women …”

I hope we do.

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