Despite insisting for four months he would complete his term, Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) abruptly announced his resignation on April 6th — just as the House Ethics Committee was about to release findings from its investigation of Farenthold’s behavior. Farenthold had previously used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, which he said he would pay back (and still hasn’t). Now that he has resigned, he may never do so.
Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) told the Huffington Post last week that, per legal requirements, the Committee had given Farenthold advance notice about the conclusion of the investigation — prompting the sudden announcement.
After the $84,000 settlement became public last December, Farenthold told KRIS-TV he would “hand over a check” that very week. However, he continued to find reasons to delay repayment; for example, at the end of January, his office stated he was “waiting to see what changes the House makes to the Congressional Accountability Act before repaying the funds.”
Politico reported in March that Farenthold was already considering resigning from Congress before the end of his term in order to evade the Committee’s investigation.
Also last month, Speier asked Speaker Paul Rayan to force Farenthold to repay the funds. Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong said at the time that “the Speaker has reiterated to Mr. Farenthold that he needs to keep his promise to repay taxpayers for the settlement.”
Time is quickly running out, if it hasn’t already: It is no longer within the Committee’s jurisdiction to investigate Farenthold, and once he is out of public office, it will be even more difficult to force him to keep his promise to repay the funds.
However, the Committee is doing what it can. Representatives Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) released a joint statement saying, “We encourage him in the strongest possible terms to uphold that promise.”
When the public first became aware of the $84,000 taxpayer-funded settlement, Farenthold stated, “I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for this.” And yet, taxpayers are still “on the hook” for it — despite Farenthold being worth over $2 million.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.