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house Bill H.R. 931

Should Members of Congress be Prohibited from Lobbying Until They Repay Taxpayer Funds Used to Settle Sexual Harassment Suits?

Argument in favor

Members of Congress who use taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment suits should be required to pay that money back before they take high-paying lobbying jobs — and this bill would be a great mechanism for ensuring that happens.

Stewart's Opinion
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02/17/2019
There should be a lifetime ban on lobbying for all politicians
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CaptJack's Opinion
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02/17/2019
Members of Congress shouldn’t be able to lobby in any case, but this is a good step forward.
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Mark's Opinion
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02/17/2019
Thank you in advance for your support and yes vote on the BLAKE Act! Bipartisan legislation that is long overdue!
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Argument opposed

This bill is going to apply to very few members of Congress. There’s no point to passing this — public pressure and last December’s overhaul of Congress’ sexual harassment rules to require members to pay sexual harassment suits out of pocket are sufficient.

DavisTrev's Opinion
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02/17/2019
They shouldn’t use taxpayers money. Period.
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Kevin's Opinion
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02/17/2019
They should be banned for life from lobbying.
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J. scott's Opinion
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02/18/2019
There are already restrictions on Politicians and former federal officials for lobbying and it doesn’t stop them. I’m thinking a 5-10 year ban would work as effectively. Perhaps the better answer is to eliminate or vastly curtail lobbying period as impossible as that may seem.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedJanuary 30th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 931?

This bill, the BLAKE Act, would prohibit former members of Congress from serving as lobbyists until they met any obligations imposed upon them under the Congressional Accountability Act, which requires members of Congress to reimburse the Treasury for taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements.

Since this bill couldn’t be enforced retroactively, the sponsor of this bill, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), also plans to send a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urging them to enforce the spirit of this bill and refuse to meet with ex-lawmakers in violation of this bill.

This bill’s full title is the Bad Lawmakers Accountability and Key Emends Act.

Impact

Ex-Congressmembers; Congressmembers going into lobbying; Treasury; and the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 931

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Mark Walker (R-NC) introduced this bill to ensure that former members of Congress can’t become lobbyists until after paying back taxpayer money used to settle sexual harassment suits against them:

"People across this country are through with Washington getting to live by a different set of rules. Using taxpayer funds to cover up your inappropriate behavior, only to evade responsibility and then enrich yourself off your time in Congress is an abuse of power, an absence of character, and a violation of trust. Congress has made strides in promoting accountability and protecting victims, but more needs to be done to ensure this never happens again."

After introducing this bill, Rep. Walker added:

“It’s an abuse of power to use taxpayer funds to basically cover up their actions and then leave and make a profit off their time in Congress. There is a fundamental problem with that concept… I think Washington needs to take the lead in cleaning up its act. This is one step in being able to move forward to say, listen, we need to be governing our own selves and not just the people of the United States…. [T]here are consequences for our actions and to look the other way would be egregious.”

Michael A. Nemeroff, senior counsel at Sidley, one of the largest law firms in the U.S., points out a loophole in this law:

"It looks like this would be an exemption if a member of Congress were an employee, rather than a contract lobbyist. This exception should be considered by Congress if they're considering passing the BLAKE Act."

CNN also points out that there are ways around this bill’s provisions:

“[T]he new law does not account for a situation like (former Rep. Blake) Farenthold's, where he did not repay the settlement money, then resigned from Congress, and the enforcement mechanism goes away. This law, if passed, would aim to at least minimize the former member's power and influence on Capitol Hill if they do not repay the money owed, by barring them from lobbying Congress.”


Of NoteCongress overhauled its sexual harassment policy in December 2018 to require lawmakers to pay out of pocket for sexual harassment settlements. However, lawmakers can still draw from a taxpayer-financed fund to make initial payments on settlements, with the expectation that they’ll pay the money back.

This bill’s acronym is a reference to Blake Farenthold, a former Texas congressman who spent $84,000 in taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, then quit Congress without paying the money back in order to take a high-paying job lobbying Congress. When Farenthold’s settlement payment to a former aide was originally revealed, he promised to quickly pay the money back — but never did. Instead, according to the Federal Elections Commission database, Farenthold spent most of his leftover campaign funds on legal expenses, hotel stays, and even an $860 cocktail party.

Ultimately, a lawsuit from the local newspaper, the Victoria Advocate, over his hiring caused Farenthold to resign his position in January 2019. In his resignation letter, Farenthold wrote that he’d like to help the port that employed him as a lobbyist, in a non-employee capacity, “when it becomes legal and ethical.”

Ironically, since this bill only applies to lobbyists, it wouldn’t affect people like Farenthold, who was hired as a state employee and therefore not required to register with the Office of the House Clerk as a lobbyist.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / wellesenterprises)

AKA

BLAKE Act

Official Title

To amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit a former Member of Congress from serving as a lobbyist until the former Member has met any obligation imposed on the former Member under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to reimburse the Treasury for amounts paid as settlements and awards under such Act in the case of an act committed personally by the former Member.

    There should be a lifetime ban on lobbying for all politicians
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    They shouldn’t use taxpayers money. Period.
    Like (91)
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    Members of Congress shouldn’t be able to lobby in any case, but this is a good step forward.
    Like (106)
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    Thank you in advance for your support and yes vote on the BLAKE Act! Bipartisan legislation that is long overdue!
    Like (56)
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    Yes, politicians should be banned from lobbying, period.
    Like (54)
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    They should never be lobbyist.
    Like (46)
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    Prohibit from lobbing forever and a day !!
    Like (37)
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    They should be banned for life from lobbying.
    Like (32)
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    Absolutely. And those numbers need to be made public
    Like (22)
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    Hell yes. They shouldn’t be allowed to work their n government anywhere ever again, but if they want to get back in they should have to pay the settlements.
    Like (21)
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    There are already restrictions on Politicians and former federal officials for lobbying and it doesn’t stop them. I’m thinking a 5-10 year ban would work as effectively. Perhaps the better answer is to eliminate or vastly curtail lobbying period as impossible as that may seem.
    Like (20)
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    The federal government should not be responsible for the costs associated with legal expenses related to any offense by members of the House or Senate that warrants their removal from office. This would provide assurance that legislators who leave office under such circumstances cannot seek to benefit from their time in office without repaying the government for any expenses associated with the grounds for their dismissals or leaving office due to legal issues.
    Like (16)
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    Of course. Any retired or previous government employee or Congress member should not be allowed to lobby or become a lobbyist. Lobbying should be outlawed anyways.
    Like (15)
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    👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻 House Bill H.R. 931 AKA the BLAKE ACT 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻 I’m in extremely strong support and recommend the passage of the House bill H.R. 931 AKA the BLAKE Act, which would prohibit former members of Congress from serving as lobbyists until they met any obligations imposed upon them under the Congressional Accountability Act, which requires members of Congress to reimburse the Treasury for taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlements. Members of Congress who use taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment suits should be required to pay that money back before they take high-paying lobbying jobs — and this bill would be a great mechanism for ensuring that happens. P.S...... I’d also strongly recommend adding folks like Rev. Al Sharpton, who’s lagging greatly paying his long overdue, Federal Tax Bill. Of course, being a card carrying Democrat, he can do no wrong, heaven forbid. 🙀👿(🤦🏻‍♂️) SneakyPete......... 👍🏻🇺🇸👍🏻🇺🇸👍🏻. 2*17*19.......... SEE: https://www.compliance.gov/sites/default/files/CAA_508v2.pdf
    Like (8)
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    I think any elected official should be permanently banned from lobbying regardless of moneys owed.
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    YEA !!
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    Yes they should be banned until they repay! Better yet, We the People should not be paying to defend them against the consequences of their sexual indiscretions. They need to pay for their own legal defense, just like a normal American. They are not supposed to be better than any other American. So, why do they misuse our taxes and act like kings?
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    Members of Congress should not become lobbyists. Members of Congress should be made to pay for their sexual harassment legal fees, fees, fines etc. taxpayers should not be paying for that. Stop sexual predator behavior!
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    Well said, Joseph! HELL, NOT JUST UNTIL HE PAYS IT BACK - WHICH, BY THE WAY, HE MUST BE REQUIRED TO DO! ADDITIONALLY, NO ONE PROVEN TO HAVE PAID SEXUAL HARASSMENT MONIES, TO ANYONE, SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO LOBBY FOR, AT LEAST, 10 YEARS FROM THE DATE OF SUCH SETTLEMENTS! Hopefully, we won’t have to worry about lobbyists and their wants and needs, anymore, in the VERY near future!
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    There should be no lobbying by politicians retiring from office and no benefits at all until they pay back the taxpayers
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