Former Congressman Blake Farenthold Returns to Public Service as $160K Government Lobbyist, Refuses to Pay Back Taxpayer Funds

Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, arrives for a House Committee on the Judiciary oversight hearing on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A disgraced former congressman has found a new job in “public service” the month after resigning from office amid a House Ethics Committee investigation into his behavior. And despite his promise to repay the $84,000 in taxpayer funds he used to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, he now admits he has no plans to to follow through on that promise.

When Blake Farenthold abruptly resigned as a U.S. Representative for Texas in April, the biggest question – besides who would pay for the special election to replace him, which he refused to do – was whether or not he would keep his promise to repay the $84,000.

That question now appears to have been answered. Last Tuesday, Farenthold told ABC News, “I will say this on the record: I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that. That’s why it hasn’t been repaid.”

According to ABC News, Farenthold “refused to disclose his attorneys’ justification for that legal advice.”

By resigning from office when he did, Farenthold was able to evade the ethics committee’s findings and eliminate the committee’s authority over him, although the committee did release a statement at the time in an effort to pressure him to repay the settlement.

It is therefore remarkable how quickly Farenthold found his way into a position working so closely with members of Congress and other elected officials.

Last Monday, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported Farenthold had accepted a job as a government lobbyist for the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort, after he announced it on a Corpus Christi radio show. He is now the full-time legislative liaison for the port, which is owned by the state of Texas.

According to the website for the Calhoun Port Authority, which operates the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort, the port acts as “a gateway to world markets for the Texas Mid-Coast region” and “plays a vital role in supporting Texas chemical manufacturing industries,” handling cargo such as “chemicals, petrochemicals, aluminum ore, and agricultural fertilizer.”

Former members of Congress are generally subject to a year-long “cooling off” period that prohibits them from lobbying. This specific position, however, enables Farenthold to take advantage of an exemption in which former members are allowed to lobby on behalf of state or local government agencies.

However, there has still been controversy over Farenthold’s hiring; on Friday, the Victoria Advocate revealed Farenthold’s hiring could have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and it is “investigating its legal options” to challenge the hiring.

Furthermore, whether or not you believe it is acceptable to use taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims, Blake Farenthold said in December he planned to repay the funds out of his own pocket, so taxpayers were not on the hook.

However, he later repeatedly came up with excuses to back out of that promise, until he finally decided to resign just before the Ethics Committee released its findings.

Now Farenthold will be returning to Washington as a government lobbyist without repaying the $84,000. Everyone who wants to “drain the swamp” should be appalled, because there’s nothing much swampier than that.

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.