By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Treatment of principles in Kavanaugh Hearings is Unconscionable
Last year, in large part as a result of the #MeToo movement, the focus of how allegations of sexual misconduct are dealt with inside legislative bodies, at primarily the federal and state levels of government gained a lot of attention. Many legislatures are unique, in that they often govern themselves and make their own rules and procedures about how to deal with such claims. During 2017’s many congressional revelations of alleged or confirmed sexual assaults involving legislators like Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Blake Farenthold, and Rep. John Conyers, we learned that in fact the U.S. Office of Compliance has paid victims more than $17 million since it was formed nearly 30 years ago. Many of these payments were to settle sexual harassment claims.
At the state level, we are not any better. Across the nation, state lawmakers have been removed, forced out, or reprimanded for sexual misbehavior. However, until last year most legislative chambers kept no record of complaints or the money that was paid to settle claims. The Associated Press was able to assemble information that roughly $3 million dollars had been paid out by eight legislatures to deal with such allegations.
With the unfolding allegations against Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, we are again reminded of the need of a standard process to fairly deal with these types of claims against not only legislators but judicial nominees, as well. Now that more than four allegations have been leveled against Kavanaugh, we are painfully aware of how little has been done to address this process since Anita Hill’s accusations against U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings.
With the election of more women to these bodies, the hope had been that change would come. Yet, it has been slow. And truth be told, some elected women have not made this process any better. Far too many have remained silent, placed partisan politics above justice, or went along to get along. The Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, at every level of human interaction, has demonstrated why we can’t depend on people to do what is right. The idea that either Kavanaugh, or his accuser, Dr. Ford would receive death threats, have their families threatened, personal addresses released, and personal emails hacked his unconscionable.
The idea that a sitting U.S. President would suggest that the #MeToo movement was “very dangerous” and unfairly threatened an entire class of powerful men, many of whom he considers friends is outrageous. I guess for Trump fairness isn’t reserved for the common men, like the Central Park Five. Bottom line, this process has been mishandled. It is clear that we need laws and procedures in place to dictate a balanced and fair response when such claims are leveled. I am committed to ensuring such a process in the Wisconsin legislature. We can do better than this, we just have to want to.