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Congress has paid $17 million in sexual misconduct and discrimination settlements

Congress has paid out more than $17.2 million over the last 20 years to cover 268 settlements on Capitol Hill, according to the Office of Compliance, which was set up in 1995 under the Congressional Accountability Act. In 2002 and 2007 those tallies topped several million dollars.

Data: U.S. Congress Office of Compliance; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Why it matters: Lawmakers and aides in Congress have been speaking out about the prevalence of sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill, including allegations that current lawmakers have perpetrated such acts, and this gives documentation, to some extent, of the incidents and settlements.

But it's not 100% inclusive; a spokesperson for Rep. Jackie Speier, who introduced legislation on sexual assault in Congress this week, told CNN 80% of the people who have told their office about sexual misconduct choose not to report to the OOC.

  • The settlements may not necessarily be related to sexual misconduct alone, since the OOC also handles racial, religious, or disability-related discrimination.

One controversial thing: The money comes from taxpayers, not from individual lawmakers' offices. Jenny Beth Martin, the leader of the Tea Party Patriots, claims that because these funds are not pulled from campaigns or offices shows they make up a "shush fund" that has "inadvertently institutionalized a cover-up culture, in which the supreme end-goal is to get the alleged victims to go away quietly." She is calling for more transparency since she says the funds do "little to stem the tide of sexual harassment" on the Hill.

The OOC is not reporting the details of the settlements, in part because some of the settlements include multiple different allegations. The office has released the numbers "based on the volume of recent inquiries regarding payment of awards and settlements."

  • The chairman to the House Administration Committee, Rep. Gregg Harper, and the ranking member may be familiar with the details of the settlements, since they have to approve payments after a settlement is reached. Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are not aware of the details of the settlements, per CNN.
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