Sexual misconduct in Congress doesn’t end with Matt Gaetz
Matt Gaetz’s allegations don’t take place on Capitol Hill, but reports resurfaced by Latino Rebels indicate Capitol Hill staff have been at risk of harassment for years.
The ongoing investigation against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) took a new turn on April 29, when someone close to the congressman, Joel Greenberg, wrote a confession letter, saying they had paid for sex with a minor. The Daily Beast was the outlet to obtain the “bombshell” letter.
Bottom line is it further supports allegations surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is being investigated by the Justice Department over sex trafficking allegations. He also is reported to have allegedly shown images and videos of nude women he had relations with while on the House floor — to fellow members of Congress.
This is the crux of the issue at hand, that Gaetz has friends and allies in Congress that stood by, and for the sake of giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps didn’t fully know the extent of Gaetz’s actions, but viewed the photos nonetheless.
It’s not known whether the pictures are related to the alleged case of sex with a minor. However: that this was allowed to happen on the House floor perpetuates a culture of sexual misconduct in Congress, an issue that for years has been buried.
In 2018, Roll Call reported of seven Congressmen accused of sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement began. In six of those cases, the victims were always female congressional aides or staffers.
At the height of the #MeToo movement, a slew of members of Congress resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment.
“All of this really comes down to power, and particularly imbalances of power, that have been established long ago and are perpetuated,” Dr. Kelly Dittmar, scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics told Vice at the time. She said it's an issue of those in power using their status to protect themselves, and to pressure their victims not to speak up.
But in the few years since the fire has subsided, this power imbalance has left room for people like Gaetz to prosper.
“For women in particular, you’re vulnerable because for one, It’s just a bunch of old white dudes who run Congress, you know?”
This was Latino Rebels DC reporter Pablo Manríquez, who recently spoke to AL DÍA on his coverage to resurface the 2019 Sexual Harassment report of Capitol custodial staff, conducted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The OIG report found, through interviews with Architect of the Capitol (AOC) leadership, that some custodial staff, especially those on the night shift, reported exposure to harassment while working in the offices of members of Congress.
“Some staff have reported overhearing harassing conversations, being the target of harassment, and observing materials such as pornography, but do not speak up due to fear of losing their jobs,” the report reads.
It goes on to say that approximately 57 separate incidents of sexual harassment were reported through the Diversity, Inclusion and Dispute Resolution (DI/DR) office, the OIG, and the Office of Compliance (OOC) between 1999 and 2019. Approximately 44% of the reported cases were substantiated after investigation.
But there are further issues within the OOC — Congress’ equivalence to a human resources system. From the way #MeToo settlements are paid, to the issue that a Congressmember in question from the 2019 report may still be serving their term in office.
Manríquez, the sole reporter currently actively covering the issue, says he’s getting to the bottom of it, because it’s also a personal issue.
“When I was a child, my father worked as a custodian at a hospital in St. Louis. So when I saw the report in 2019, it made me think of my father,” he said.
On his first day reporting on Congress for Latino Rebels, he said he approached the first member of Congress he found, Sen. John Hickenlooper from Colorado, and asked him about the custodian report. Hickenlooper referred him to Sen. Jon Ossoff, the new Chair of the Investigations Committee.
“The most important things at stake are that the protections that are in place for workers in Congress, when it comes to sexual misconduct, only protect Congress. They don’t protect workers. That’s a really important distinction,” Manríquez continued.
He said looking into Office of Compliance records will open up a “rabbit hole” that goes well beyond Matt Gaetz.
The case of sexual misconduct outlined in the 2019 report is just one avenue the overarching issue within Congress has opened.
Custodial staff, congressional staffers, and all the way up to the position of chief of staff, employees on Capitol Hill are subject to misconduct from those who hold positions of power. It’s an environment where 73% of elected officials in Congress are male.
For years, the issue has been perpetuated by inaction and lack of transparency.