Patterico's Pontifications


Irony: Office of Congressional Ethics Staff Director Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:22 am

[Guest post by Dana]

In light of the current flurry of elected officials being accused of sexual misconduct (and making payouts using taxpayer money), it is an ironic slap in the face of Americans to find out that a high-ranking official, whose job is to investigate accusations of sexual misconduct against lawmakers, is himself being sued in federal court for physical and sexual harassment of several women — as well as using his powerful position to influence law enforcement responsible for the investigation into the matter:

Omar Ashmawy, staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics, is heavily involved in determining which allegations brought against lawmakers warrant an ethics committee probe.

Ashmawy, who signed off on the ethics investigation into Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan among others, was allegedly assaulted by three men after repeatedly sexually harassing women in a Milford, Penn., bar on Valentines Day in 2015.

One of the men, Greg Martucci, is suing Ashmawy in federal court for, among other things, “threatening to use his position as staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics to induce a criminal proceeding to be brought against Plaintiff and/or others,” according to court inflatable movie screen filings obtained by Foreign Policy.

Ashmawy denies that he harassed any women that night, and says the assault was unprovoked: “To be clear, I did not harass anyone that evening, physically or verbally,” he wrote in a statement to FP. “To the contrary, I was the victim of a wholly unprovoked assault for which those responsible were investigated, arrested and charged. Any allegation to the contrary is unequivocally false.”

However, witnesses at the bar and the alleged victims corroborated Martucci’s accusation that Ashmawy had behaved in an “extremely violent and belligerent” manner toward several women that night:

Dawn Jorgensen corroborated much of what Martucci alleges in his suit in a written statement provided to police. She claims she saw Martucci “clearly sexually harassing” [Joey Lynn] Smith during successive trips to the bar to order drinks.

“You’ll give me drinks, but you won’t fuck me,” Ashmawy said to Smith before physically blocking her escape and grabbing her, according to Dawn Jorgensen’s statement. At that point, Dawn Jorgensen said she tried to intervene, at which point Ashmawy allegedly grabbed her wrist and fell on top of her.

[Christina] Floyd confirmed much of what Dawn Jorgensen alleged in her own statement to the police.

“I watched each time Omar would come down and verbally sexually harass the bartender as he ordered drinks,” Floyd wrote in her statement, describing Ashmawy.”

After witnessing the altercation, bar owner John Jorgensen (who is also the husband of Dawn Jorgensen), Martucci, and another individual took Ashmawy out back to the woodshed where, according to Ashmawy’s statement, he was left with a “bruised and bloody eye.” Oddly, in spite of the written statements by the alleged victims, no charges of sexual assault or harassment have been filed against Ashmawy.

Piggybacking on the theme of “ethics” and officials behaving badly, Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) is currently facing an investigation concerning his alleged sexual misconduct involving two women:

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it has launched an investigation into the conduct of Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) amid allegations that he sexually harassed an employee on his 2016 congressional campaign and a lobbyist during his time as a state legislator.

Nancy Pelosi has called on Kihuen to resign several times, based on the accusation by the lobbyist that: “…Kihuen touched her thighs and buttocks without consent and sent her hundreds of suggestive text messages, which the Nevada] Independent reviewed.”

Kihuen has declined to step down, stating that he wants to “go through the ethics process.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tx.), who is also the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation, announced that rather than step down from his position, he has decided instead not to run for reelection after it had been revealed that he had “settled a lurid sexual harassment claim with his former communications director for $84,000,” and faces accusations from two former press secretaries who claimed he had “an explosive temper, berate them repeatedly, made sexually explicit jokes and engaged in casual sexual banter that set a tone followed by his underlings.”

And as a reminder, Sen. Al Franken (D-Mn.) has not yet stepped down after facing numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. The senator also remains baffled about how those women’s bottoms ended up in his unwilling hands. However, according to a report out today, the Democrat will be gone in early January when Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is scheduled to take over his seat.

In the midst of numerous allegations against officials, and resignations by some of them, Speaker Paul Ryan has had enough of these shenanigans, especially when it involves taxpayer money:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that Congress plans to stop using taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment cases against lawmakers.

When asked whether Congress would stop using taxpayer dollars to settle these cases, Ryan replied, “Yes, that’s among the things we’re working on right now.”

Ryan added that he agrees with Weber’s assertion that using taxpayer dollars to settle harassment claims is “indefensible.”

While both the House and the Senate have voted to implement sexual harassment training for all members of Congress and staffers, reforms on how Congress should handle accusations of sexual misconduct are also in the works. One hopes that all the decision-makers bear in mind that these lawmakers who have behaved badly are adults who already know that sexual harassment and assault is not only wrong but also illegal. However, like small children, they behave in such an unacceptable manner because they know they can get away with it. And no amount of sexual harassment training can change that. As such, it will be interesting to see whether the new reforms have any actual teeth to them.

Final point: if this teaser has any merit to it, those reforms should be put in place much sooner rather than later.

Also, any official that has used taxpayer money to make secret settlements should be publicly named, to promote a more transparent government.

— Dana

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