Let’s take a look at the differing records of the two leading candidates for the open Senate seat in Tennessee on the issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault. First, the Democrat candidate Phil Bredesen and then second, the Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn.
Here’s the Washington Free Beacon.
The Tennessean, a Nashville-based publication owned by Gannett, first began investigating the ethical processes of Bredesen’s office after the May 2005 news that a top official appointed by Bredesen was being suspended for workplace harassment. Reporting on the incident proved difficult as state investigators shredded all the notes taken during the investigation, with the top investigator admitting to being “keenly aware” that documentation could later be requested as public records.
The details of the 2005 harassment claims against Mack Cooper, Bredesen’s senior adviser for legislation and policy, were never revealed.
Bredesen denied that shredding documents was part of a “cover up.” Instead he argued it was part of an effort to protect the identities of victims. He admitted, however, that there was no way to prove his point.
“There’s nothing to be covered up here,” Bredesen told the AP in reference to the Cooper case. “I don’t have any way of proving that to you.”
Equally damning for Bredesen’s office was the case of Quenton White, appointed commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Corrections by Bredesen shortly after he was elected governor in 2002.
White resigned from the post in July 2005, just two months after Cooper’s suspension, due to “mounting questions about a sexual harassment allegation against him, his handling of a sexual harassment case against his executive assistant, and circumstances surrounding his relationship with a former subordinate,” the Tennessean reported.
White, reporters discovered, had been accused of sexual harassment a year before his resignation. Bredesen confirmed the 2004 sexual assault allegation but said investigators found “no corroboration” of the claim.
Bredesen again had to explain to reporters, however, that he could not give any proof for his statement because the top investigator shredded her notes and had no written report on what was found.
[…]The Tennessean‘s then editor, Everett J. Mitchell II, slammed Bredesen’s secrecy on high-profile cases, writing in his paper, “How is the public to be assured that the problem has been appropriately and adequately addressed if the public business is done in secrecy?”
Mitchell argued “the shredding of documents raises the specter there was more to it and that there was something to hide.”
The paper even sued the state of Tennessee for access to sealed sexual harassment files, but had its case dismissed by a state judge who ruled Bredesen could withhold documents on grounds of attorney-client privilege. Bredesen had previously told the paper he would “consider” opening withheld case files.
So there’s the record of the Tennessee Democrat on sexual harassment and sexual assault. The striking thing about all this is that the Nashville Tennessean is actually left-of-center on political issues.
The record of the Tennessee Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn, is very different from the Democrat candidate.
The Washington Times explains:
Rep. Marsha Blackburn said Thursday that any member of Congress who used taxpayer dollars to fund sexual harassment-related settlements needs to refund that money.
“They need to pay that money back with interest,” Ms. Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, said on Fox News.
She said she did not know who or how many congressmen are on the list of those who have used this money for such a purpose, but said the issue needs to be addressed.
“It is inappropriate that there has not been transparency with members of Congress and the American taxpayer. So let’s clean this up,” Ms. Blackburn said.
Ms. Blackburn is helping push forward a bill sponsored by Rep. Ron DeSantis, Florida Republican, to end these so-called “hush funds” used to fund sexual harassment settlements.
So far, Rep. John Conyers is the only member publicly known to have used this money to settle a sexual harassment claim. He was accused of harassment by a former employee and settled a lawsuit with her using taxpayer money.
John Conyers is, of course, a Democrat.
So, Marsha’s position on sexual harassment and sexual assault is that the investigation documents should not be shredded, but that they should be made public. The names of the accused should be made public. The settlements paid to the accusers at taxpayer expense should be made public, and paid back with interest. And payouts to accusers should stop being made using taxpayer dollars. That all sounds good to me.
Just so you know, the payouts for these sexual harassment claims is not a small amount of money. Democrat congressman Alcee Hastings paid out $220,000 to his accuser. Well, he didn’t pay it out, the taxpayers paid it out for him with our money.
Tennesseans certainly have a clear choice to make in this Senate race. There are clear differences.