Former Republican Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold resigned from his seat in Congress last month following earlier reports he had used a significant amount of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a former staffer.
According to The Hill, Farenthold initially said he would repay those taxpayer funds from his own personal money in the near future, but now he is refusing to do so.
In 2014, the disgraced congressman was sued by his former communications director for alleged sexual harassment, discrimination against women and fostering a hostile work environment.
Farenthold denied any wrongdoing but quietly settled the claim with $84,000 in taxpayer funds drawn from a little-known slush fund used by members of Congress for such purposes.
The Hill reported in December that Farenthold told KRIS-TV in Corpus Cristi, Texas that he would repay that money himself. “I’m going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker Ryan, or somebody, and say ‘Look, here’s the amount of my settlement, give it back to the taxpayers,'” Farenthold said.
“I want to be clear that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this,” he said at the time. “And I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system without people saying, ‘Blake, you benefited from the system, you don’t have a right to talk about it or fix it.'”
But something changed between now and then. ABC News reported Tuesday that Farenthold now says he has no intention of repaying those taxpayer funds used for the settlement, despite having just procured a job as a lobbyist for a rumored six-figure salary.
ABC contacted Farenthold for comment on the new lobbyist job — reportedly as a “legislative liaison” with the Calhoun Port Authority in Port Lavaca-Point Comfort, Texas — but he would only state, “I’m a private citizen now, so I’m not commenting about my employment.”
He was only slightly more talkative about why he isn’t repaying the settlement funds.
“I will say this on the record: I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that. That’s why it hasn’t been repaid,” he told ABC.
Pressed for the legal justification behind that advice from his attorneys, Farenthold declined to answer.
On top of reneging on his vow to repay the funds, Farenthold is also going against the recommendations of the House Ethics Committee, who urged him in April to make good on his promise to do so.
“We note Rep. Farenthold publicly promised to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for $84,000 in funds paid to settle the lawsuit brought against him for claims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation,” the statement from the committee read. “We encourage him in the strongest possible terms to uphold that promise.”
Furthermore, Farenthold also appears to be ignoring a demand from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to cover the costs of a special election that will be held to fill his vacated seat in the House of Representatives, which Farenthold contends was “not warranted and should not have been called.”
In a letter to Abbott dated May 2, Farenthold wrote of the special election, “Since I didn’t call it and don’t think it’s necessary, I shouldn’t be asked to pay for it.”
While there may be more to the story than what has been publicly reported, this comes across as remarkably slimy and utterly disgraceful.
Regardless of whether Farenthold actually did the things he was accused of doing — and for which he paid a settlement and ultimately resigned — he should keep to his word and repay the taxpayers like he initially promised to do.
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