Politics

What Lawmakers Do When They Leave After Harassment Allegations

Six have left so far this Congress

Former Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., here at a news conference in December 2016, resigned his seat last October amid revelations of an extramarital affair. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Six members of Congress have left office in the past few months after allegations ranging from firing female staffers who rejected sexual advances to pressuring a lover to get an abortion.

While their resignations mean they no longer have a vote in Congress, that doesn’t mean their careers are over. Former lawmakers are moving forward by flying under the radar, grabbing the sides of a lectern or sticking with politics.

Here’s a rundown of why they left and what they’re doing now:

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., leaves the Democratic Senate Policy luncheon in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., resigned in January and was replaced by Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Al Franken

After resigning from Congress over sexual misconduct allegations, former Sen. Al Franken recently made his first public appearance. He turned up in Lisbon, Portugal, at the Privacy XChange Forum to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

CyberScout, the identity protection firm hosting the event, would not comment on how much it pays speakers.

The firm also declined to answer questions about the accusations against Franken. But CyberScout chairman Adam Levin said he did not believe they detracted from the message of the May event.

“This is the topic of the moment, and this is the guy who has been most clearly identified with issues of privacy equality on the internet,” Levin said of Franken. “The privacy forum stood on its own.”

The former Saturday Night Live actor and writer was one of the first politicians accused in the #MeToo movement. Leeann Tweeden, a radio host in Los Angeles and former model, said Franken forcibly kissed her.

Watch: Glimpses of a Departing Senator

Franken responded to the post with a public apology.

“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive,” he said. “But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters.”

He officially resigned Jan. 2. Minnesota lieutenant governor Tina Smith was appointed to the seat and will remain in Congress until a November special election.

Franken has kept a low profile this year. But Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a fellow Minnesota Democrat, thinks he could make a comeback.

“He’s had two acts, and he’s still going to have a third,” Klobuchar told a crowd in April, according to Newsweek. “We may not see them in politics again, but they’ll find another place to be effective and make a difference.”

 

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, attends a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda as the late Rev. Billy Graham lies in honor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, attends a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda as the late Rev. Billy Graham lies in honor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Blake Farenthold

Rep. Blake Farenthold has already embarked on a new post-Congress career. The former congressman landed a job with the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort.

The Texas Republican left office in April after Politico reported he had used $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim.

As the legislative liaison for the port, Farenthold will earn a salary of $160,000, slightly less than his congressional salary of $174,000. He first announced the news May 15 on a Corpus Christi radio show, “Lago in the Morning.”

A House rule requires former members to wait a year before lobbying, but government jobs — such as those at the port authority — are exempt.

“The Board looks forward to the services Blake can provide in assisting the Port with matters in Washington, D.C.,” Calhoun Port Authority board members said in a statement.

But Farenthold is already under fire in his new role. Public backlash led the all-male board to consider ousting him, and a local newspaper has sued the port over the hiring process.

When reports surfaced in December that Farenthold had settled with his former communications director, Lauren Greene, he promised to repay the $84,000 in full.

Now the Texas Republican says he won’t pay after all, and has rejected calls from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to fund the June 30 special election for the Corpus Christi seat.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., walks down the House steps after voting in the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., walks down the House steps after voting in the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

John Conyers Jr.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. hasn’t taken another job after resigning over sexual harassment allegations. Though he exited Congress in December, his presence remains: his son and great-nephew, who share his last name, are competing to take over the seat.

The Michigan Democrat resigned after multiple women came forward to accuse him. The first Conyers allegation was exposed through documents leaked to BuzzFeed News related to a 2015 wrongful dismissal complaint in which a female employee claimed Conyers fired her for rejecting his sexual advances. The office paid the employee roughly $27,000 in wages as a settlement, which required a non-disclosure agreement.

Conyers reportedly “blackballed” some female employees who tried to reach settlements into accepting whatever was offered and keeping quiet. The settlements were paid through Conyers’ staff fund instead of through the congressional settlement fund, according to the BuzzFeed News report.

Conyers announced he would retire effective immediately in December, soon after the allegations surfaced.

He then endorsed his son, John Conyers III, to succeed him in Congress. Despite his father’s endorsement, he may not be able to run for the Michigan seat. Ian Conyers, the former congressman’s great-nephew, and current state senator, called on May 3 for an investigation into his competitor’s ballot.

A Wayne County Clerk officially ruled in May that Conyers III did not qualify for a spot on the ballot, the Detroit Free Press reported. While the decision may get overturned, Conyers’ son so far won’t have his name listed.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., takes his seat as he arrives for the House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., takes his seat as he arrives for the House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Trent Franks

Rep. Trent Franks, who asked female staff members to serve as surrogates for his family, has not yet moved on to a new job.

The Arizona Republican left Congress abruptly last December, citing his wife’s emergency health problems. Soon after Franks’ announcement, The Associated Press reported that a former Franks staffer said the congressman offered her $5 million to carry his child.

“I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable,” Franks said. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”

Lesko then won the April special election to fill Franks’ Arizona 8th District seat against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni. The two could face off again in November.

Both have said they plan to file to run again for a full term. The primary for that race is Aug. 28.

Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., walks down the House steps after final votes of the week in the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., walks down the House steps after final votes of the week in the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Patrick Meehan

Former Rep. Patrick Meehan remains in the political sphere by donating funds to a number of Republican groups in Pennsylvania.

The donations are the only action from Meehan since he resigned from Congress in April. There are no reports that he has a new job, but before Congress, he served as a U.S. attorney and district attorney in Pennsylvania.

Meehan announced in January he would not seek re-election after The New York Times revealed he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim against him by a former staffer.

The 7th District congressman used an undisclosed sum from his personal office account to settle the harassment case, the Times reported. An unnamed female staffer complained that Meehan, who is married, expressed romantic interest in her and “grew hostile when she did not reciprocate,” the newspaper said.

Last month Meehan resigned from Congress and said he would repay the $39,000 that was used to settle the claim.

Pennsylvania’s governor set Meehan’s replacement special election for Nov. 6, the same day as the general election.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., at the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., at a House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Tim Murphy

After resigning from his congressional seat over an abortion scandal last year, Tim Murphy has re-entered politics as a consultant.

Murphy now works for Cranmer Consultants, a government relations firm, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Murphy will be consulting on economic development and the opioid crisis.

The firm is run by former Allegheny County Commissioner Bob Cranmer.

“Despite his personal issues, the connections and knowledge he has will be invaluable,” Cranmer told the publication. “As far as his effectiveness goes and his ability to know and advise me what’s going on in Washington, [the personal issues are] not an issue.”

While Cranmer is a registered lobbyist, federal rules bar Murphy from registering until a year after his resignation.

Murphy quit Congress last year after revelations that he pressured a woman with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion, despite selling himself as an anti-abortion Republican.

Before getting a new job, the former representative gave to local Republican party groups in the special election to fill his seat, which ultimately went to Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb.

Griffin Connolly, Eric Garcia, Lindsey McPherson, Simone Pathé, Bridget Bowman and Jason Dick contributed to this report.

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