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GOP lawmaker used $84K in taxpayer funds for sexual harassment settlement

Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold (right) joins other members of the House Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee in wearing 3D glasses while watching a demonstration of 3D technology on Capitol Hill in July 2013 in Washington, D.C. Farenthold reportedly settled a 2014 sexual harassment claim, playing $84,000 with taxpayer funds. (2013 file photo/Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold  used $84,000 in taxpayer funds from a congressional account to settle a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit by a former employee, Politico reported Friday.

What happened?

According to Politico, House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door meeting on Friday that only one House office had used the congressional Office of Compliance account in the last five years to settle a sexual harassment complaint. He said that settlement was for $84,000.

Politico reported that the lawmaker in question is Farenthold.

According to the report, Lauren Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director, sued him in 2014 over gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and creating a hostile work environment.

Greene claimed in the lawsuit that another Farenthold staffer told her the lawmaker had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her. She said the lawmaker also “regularly drank to excess” and told her in 2014 that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.”

She said after she objected to the comments Farenthold and the male staffer had made to her, the congressman terminated her employment. Farenthold denied the allegations, according to the report.

Greene filed a lawsuit but later dropped the case after the parties reached a private settlement.

In a statement to Politico, Farenthold said, “While I 100% support more transparency with respect to claims against members of Congress, I can neither confirm nor deny that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question.”

Amid a national wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations, the Office of Compliance account has come under fire as a slush fund enabling lawmakers to settle such claims with taxpayer funds.

NBC News reported that the office has made more than $17 million worth of payments to settle workplace disputes over the last 20 years, “but it’s unknown — other than Farenthold’s $84,000 payment — how much of that is for sexual harassment claims over that period of time.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Farenthold had an estimated net worth of $5,789,824 in 2015.

While defending then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the wake of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape last year, Farenthold said he'd still "consider" voting for Trump if the candidate said on tape that he liked to rape women. The congressman later apologized.

Farenthold also was once pictured wearing "duckie pajamas" and posing with scantily clad women, Talking Points Memo noted.

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