Anthony Weiner has only been out of office for one day, and we already have another Congressional sex scandal on our hands. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, is being investigated for allegedly sexually harassing a staff member. Clearly the Democratic Party is rife with corruption! (Or at least, that's what Republicans will say.)
The Office of Congressional Ethics is conducting a preliminary investigation into whether Hastings sexually harassed Winsome Parker, a staffer who worked on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which Hastings headed. The Wall Street Journal reports:
In her suit, Ms. Packer made a number of allegations about events she said occurred between January 2008 and Feb. 2010. The congressman pressured Ms. Packer to allow him to stay with her during visits to Vienna, where she was based, and made inappropriate remarks, the suit alleged. In one instance, the suit said Mr. Hastings asked her "what kind of underwear are you wearing" in front of others.
The lawsuit alleged Mr. Hastings and a senior aide at the commission retaliated against her for attempting to report the incidents to the staff of other members of Congress and the Office of Compliance, which handles claims of harassment from congressional staff members. Ms. Packer also alleged Mr. Hastings pressured her to give him gifts and make financial donations to his re-election campaign.
This isn't the first time Hastings' ethics have been called into question. In 1989 he became the sixth federal judge in U.S. history to be removed from office by the Senate after he was impeached by the House for allegedly conspiring to accept a bribe. He was acquitted by a jury, and elected to Congress four years later. Earlier this year the House ethics committee dropped an investigation into how Hastings and several other lawmakers spent overseas travel funds.
The lawsuit against Hastings was filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch, which is acting as Packer's legal counsel. Packer is a Republican, which will add fuel to partisan bickering over the case, but of course her claims should be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated regardless of her politics.
Hastings has denied her allegations, saying in a recent interview:
"Quite frankly your source has as much or more information than I do and I would suggest you rely upon them .. It would be impossible for me in a paragraph or a page or two or a tome or volumes one and two to help you understand the dynamics of these events. I'll leave it at that."
Right. Since that doesn't make much sense, Hastings' attorney later elaborated that he,
"In the strongest terms, denies the charges. He is confident that he will be fully exonerated. Mr. Hastings has stated unequivocally that the record will show that the plaintiff's claims are untruthful and without merit."
Since the scandal is breaking before the nation even had a chance to get all those Weiner jokes out of its system, don't be surprised to see this painted as an ethical problem within the Democratic party. Just hours after the story broke, The Weekly Standard noted that this, "adds to the Democrats' nearly unprecedented string of scandals in recent years." There definitely are slimy and unscrupulous lawmakers serving in both parties, but Republican pundits will conveniently forget to mention the first Congressional scandal of 2011, which involved Republican New York Rep. Christopher Lee, and the numerous foot tapping, philandering, hypocritical Republican sleazeballs that came before him.