What Fresh Hell Is This?

April 28, 2018

Senator Toomey RESPONDS To Another Letter (With Another Example Of A Pivot and Deflect)

I was beginning to worry.

You see, it's been a month and half since I received any sort of response from Senator Pat Toomey (or his office). I'm not sure, but it feels like the response was longer than usual. I really should take the time to analyze the data, to ascertain the average response rate, average time between my letter to him and his response to me regarding those letters and so on.

But that's for another blog post.

This letter, which arrived via email, starts thusly:
Thank you for contacting me about recent reports of sexual harassment and misconduct by government officials. I appreciate hearing from you and share your concerns about these deeply troubling reports.

There have been a number of recent allegations of misconduct and harassment against current members of Congress. In the wake of these reports, each chamber's respective, nonpartisan Committees on Ethics confirmed that they had each opened investigations into several of these matters.
Ha! See that? I was worried about nothing. He says it right there: "I appreciate hearing from you..."

Whew.

So what letter is he referring to?  I searched for the keywords "Toomey" and "sexual harassment" in that the blog and found only one letter that even gets close - this one, from two months ago.

This is what I wrote:
Senator, I'd like to take a step back from the many Trump scandals now plaguing this nation and ask you about the direction of your political party, the G.O.P.

Recently at a CPAC conference, conservative columnist Mona Charen asked "How can conservative women hope to have any credibility on the subject of sexual harassment or relations between the sexes when they excuse the behavior of President Trump?" And for that she was booed by members of the audience and security had to escort her from the hall.
That was my frame. You may need to cast your eyes up a few degrees to see how differently Toomey framed his response. To my question regarding Charen's position regarding the lack of sexual harassment credibility in the GOP as seen in the light of Donald Trump's behavior, he responds with "recent reports of sexual harassment and misconduct by government officials" who are "current members of Congress" using "taxpayer dollars to settle claims of sexual harassment."

No, senator. We're just talking about one government official (who, by the way is not a member of Congress): Donald J Trump.

Let's get back to my letter. Charen followed up with an op-ed in the NYTimes where stated, after pointing to the hypocrisy in our great nation's once great conservative party:
There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth. And it must be done, again and again, by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism, by those of us who refuse to overlook the fools, frauds, and fascists attempting to glide along in his slipstream into respectability.
And in response to that I asked him a specific question:
So here's my question: Is she right about your party? And if you believe she is, when will you start to speak out against the brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism?
To that, Toomey sent a letter basically lauding himself for supporting legislation designed to deny taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims and legislation mandating sexual harassment training for the Senate and the House of Representative. After which he adds:
I voted in favor of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the past.
(Except he also voted against reauthorizing it in the past as well.)

Don't mistake me - all those things he says are good things. They also have absolutely nothing to do with what I asked him about. It's almost as if he's looking to, oh I don't know, pivot and deflect away from the topic of my letter - which was about the "brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism" currently infecting his political party.

Toomey pivoted. Toomey deflected.

And Toomey did so to avoid confronting Charen's charge about Trumpism in the GOP.

As Charen wrote in her column:
For traditional conservatives, the past two years have felt like a Twilight Zone episode. Politicians, activists, and intellectuals have succumbed with numbing regularity, betraying every principle they once claimed to uphold.
Sad to say but if this letter is any indication, Pat Toomey is one of those who has succumbed.

Full text of Toomey's letter:
Dear David,

Thank you for contacting me about recent reports of sexual harassment and misconduct by government officials. I appreciate hearing from you and share your concerns about these deeply troubling reports.

There have been a number of recent allegations of misconduct and harassment against current members of Congress. In the wake of these reports, each chamber's respective, nonpartisan Committees on Ethics confirmed that they had each opened investigations into several of these matters.

Many Pennsylvanians have raised concerns, which I share, about the use of taxpayer dollars to settle claims of sexual harassment. The Congressional Office of Compliance (OOC) recently revealed that since 1997 it has paid out approximately $17 million in taxpayer funds to settle 264 claims of labor and employment law violations involving congressional employees. While the OOC did not break out the settlements based on the type of claim, some of them likely involved claims of sexual harassment.

The use of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment claims is appalling and completely unacceptable. As I have said publicly, it is incumbent on Congress to prevent this from occurring, and I will vigorously support efforts that make it impossible for congressional offices to use public funds for such purposes.

On November 15, 2017, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced legislation - the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act (S. 2159) - that is intended to bring more transparency and accountability to the OOC's settlement process. Among its provisions, this bill would require a Member of Congress to repay the Treasury for any settlements paid if the Member is an alleged harasser. S. 2159 also requires the OOC to publish on its website the settlements paid by congressional offices. S. 2159 is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, of which I am not a member. Please be assured, however, that I will continue to monitor the status of this legislation.

Recent reports of sexual misconduct and harassment have also understandably raised questions about the lack of mandatory anti-harassment training for House and Senate staff. As a result, on November 9, 2017, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution (S.Res. 330) mandating anti-harassment training for Senators, officers, employees, detailees, and interns of the Senate. On November 29, 2017, the House of Representatives passed similar legislation (H.Res. 630) mandating harassment prevention training.

Finally, as you know, sexual misconduct continues to persist in our society. During my congressional career, I have worked to prevent and redress the terrible crime of sexual violence. I voted in favor of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the past. Also, I have led the successful fight to dramatically increase funding for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse-specifically by stopping Congress from raiding the Crime Victims Fund. The Crime Victims Fund receives no taxpayer dollars; it is funded by criminal fines and penalties collected in federal court. Under law, money in the fund is supposed to go to assisting victims of crime. But, for over a decade, Congress diverted billions to fund unrelated discretionary spending projects.

I have been pleased to see my efforts yield success. Congress increased the amount disbursed to assist victims from $745 million in 2014 to over $2.6 billion in 2016. Pennsylvania groups that assist victims saw available funding more than quadruple, rising from $17.5 million in 2014 to $80 million in 2016. I was also pleased to see that the omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 244) passed on May 4, 2017 included a similar number, $2.57 billion.

Thank you again for your correspondence. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on the recent reports of sexual harassment and misconduct, and I value your input. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.

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