Cooper, Blackburn file bill to end sexual harassment hush fund - WSMV News 4

Cooper, Blackburn file bill to end sexual harassment hush fund

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Two Tennessee lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle are working together to dismantle a secret fund, paid for by taxpayers, meant to keep victims of sexual assault quiet.

The so-called hush fund has been around since the 1990s.

Sponsors say it protects the predators rather than the victims.

Some lawmakers behind it say they had not even heard about it until recently.

Congressman Jim Cooper, D-TN, and Congressman Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, said the hush fund is used to help members of Congress settle sexual harassment claims.

It also reportedly pushes alleged victims to sign an agreement that they won't go public with the claims.

“My constituents could not believe what they were hearing when they heard about the hush money fund. They were right to be appalled. I was disgusted,” Blackburn said.

Cooper agrees.

“No more cover-ups. We need transparency, safety and appropriate behavior. Sexual misconduct has no place here or anywhere,” Cooper said.

Cooper said over the past 20 years, taxpayers had to foot the bill for 268 congressional settlements, totaling more than $17 million.

The bill, if passed, would essentially call out any member of Congress who used the fund to settle sexual harassment claims dating back to 1995.

It would also allow the accusers to share their story publicly if they chose to.

The move comes as sexual misconduct claims are piling up against politicians.

On Wednesday, the House approved a separate bill requiring sexual harassment training for members of Congress and staff.

“Look, sexual harassment has no place in any workplace, let alone in the United States Congress,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The bill would also require perpetrators who used the fund to settle claims to reimburse taxpayers with interest.

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