During Elizabeth Warren‘s fiery debate performance last week, she called on billionaire Michael Bloomberg to release former female employees who complained about his workplace behavior — which allegedly included sexist comments — from non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Not long after, lawyer and conservative commentator Mike Cernovich called on the Massachusetts Senator to support the unsealing of the many confidentiality agreements reportedly hidden in Congress.
“Hi @ewarren!” he tweeted, linked to a petition to unseal the agreements.
“Speaking of NDAs! You’re in Congress, right? Here are 250 SEALED sexual harassment settlements. Will you demand these be unsealed?”
Canadian lawyer and YouTuber Viva Frei, who previously interviewed Cernovich, expressed his support for such action and his own plans to touch on the issue.
“Darn Mike, that was my exact thought and is going to be in my next vlawg. Now everyone’s going to think I’m copying your wisdom!” he tweeted.
In the Change.org petition, Cernovich noted a 2017 Washington Post article that reported that Congress’ Office of Compliance has spent more than $17 million on 264 settlements for violations of various employment rules, including sexual harassment.
According to BuzzFeed News, congressional employees who claim to have been sexually harassed have 180 days to file an incident report to the Office of Compliance. From here, a lengthy process takes place, one that allegedly requires a confidentiality agreement to be signed before proceeding.
— The Beat with Ari Melber on MSNBC (@TheBeatWithAri) November 30, 2017
An example is the case of Michigan Rep. John Conyers, who was accused of sexual harassment by a former female employee who filed a wrongful dismissal complaint. The case was settled via the Office of Compliance in a process that has come under fire recently.
According to the victim, who spoke to BuzzFeed News anonymously, she felt pressured to stay quiet.
“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” she said.
As noted in the petition, Cernovich was the one who unearthed documents that revealed that congressman Conyers settled a sexual harassment lawsuit in Congress with taxpayer money, which led him to resign.
I am a lead co-sponsor with @RepDeSantis of the Congressional Accountability and Hush Fund Elimination Act, which will end the Office of Compliance's ability to use taxpayer dollars to settle sexual assault and sexual harassment claims against members of Congress. pic.twitter.com/aMbc9SunnC
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) November 29, 2017
The Office of Compliance’s process, which was described by BuzzFeed News as a “secret mechanism,” appears to have come under increased scrutiny.
“Some members of Congress have raised major concerns with the current system over the years, but the calls for an overhaul have grown louder in the post-Weinstein era,” BuzzFeed News reported.
“If you’re a ‘#MeToo’ advocate, you should want these deals unsealed,” the petition reads.
“If you’re a limited government conservative, you should want these documents unsealed. If you’re simply a decent person, you want these documents unsealed.”