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An issue that’s exploding across the country

Monday, Nov 6, 2017

* From a Miami Herald story about its state legislature

The claims followed the abrupt resignation of one of Latvala’s allies, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Clemens of Atlantis on Oct. 26 — after he admitted to an affair with a lobbyist — and the revelation that a state senator had discovered a surveillance camera placed by a private investigator in a condominium where several legislators stay during the annual session. […]

The sense that people can get away with this kind of behavior in Tallahassee is widespread. One of the tools of the trade is the use of attractive young men and women who are hired by lobbyists to show up in the Capitol and nearby bars in the closing weeks of legislative sessions, flirt with lawmakers, and maybe even offer sexual favors.

They’re called “closers,” a reference to the end of the session when lobbyists need amendments tucked into bills and budgets — and will go to great lengths to get the legislative votes to pass them.

Yikes on both counts. Just imagine a surveillance camera at Lincoln Towers. And I’ve never heard of “closers” before. That state is bizarre.

* More from Florida

Six women who work in Florida’s Capitol say the state Senate’s powerful budget chairman, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala, has inappropriately touched them without their consent or uttered demeaning remarks about their bodies. […]

Known in the state Capitol for associating with a bevy of young female lobbyists in his office and at bars and restaurants, Latvala, who is married, was under surveillance last spring by an undercover private investigator who snapped a photo of him kissing a lobbyist on the lips in public. In that case, Latvala and the lobbyist said the kissing was innocent and consensual.

* On to Kentucky

Kentucky Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover resigned from his position Sunday amid sexual harassment allegations, saying he had made “mistakes.”

Hoover, who The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville reported had secretly settled a sexual harassment allegation by a woman on his legislative staff, did not resign as a state representative, however, and has denied all allegations.

“I did make mistakes, in that I engaged in inappropriate text messages,” the Republican lawmaker said at a press conference announcing his decision. “I engaged in banter that was consensual, yet make no mistake, it was wrong on my part to do that. And for that I am truly sorry.” […]

Hoover’s resignation comes a day after Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, also a Republican, called for “the immediate resignation of every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case, who is party to trying to hide this type of behavior.”

* More from Kentucky

House Speaker Jeff Hoover’s confidential sexual harassment settlement also involves three other House Republicans, as well as Hoover’s chief of staff, sources tell Courier Journal.

Reps. Jim DeCesare of Rockfield, Brian Linder of Dry Ridge and Michael Meredith of Brownsville and Ginger Wills, the chief of staff, also were parties to the settlement, according to sources with knowledge of the deal who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

* Kansas

Legislative interns and other young women in the Kansas Capitol have faced sexual advances and lewd comments from lawmakers of both political parties, but their harassment remained largely hidden until recent revelations.

* Washington

Three women have accused a former Washington state lawmaker of sexual harassment and assault during his time in the Legislature, becoming the latest statehouse with women reporting misconduct by men.

* Rhode Island

Top Rhode Island Democrat Joseph DeLorenzo quit the party Thursday after making dismissive comments about a Democrat state representative’s sexual harassment claims against a fellow lawmaker.

* Massachusetts

Describing himself as ‘‘infuriated and deeply disturbed’’ about allegations of sexual harassment at the Statehouse, the Democratic leader of the Massachusetts House on Friday ordered an immediate review of his chamber’s policies on harassment and retaliation, while promising to investigate any reported incidents.

Speaker Robert DeLeo took to the House floor shortly after a column appeared in The Boston Globe that detailed a series of alleged incidents over the past two decades or so, including one in which a female lobbyist said a legislator strongly implied to her that he would vote for a bill in exchange for sex.

* Oregon

A longtime Oregon state senator has been warned bluntly by the Senate president not to touch any women following complaints of inappropriate contact.

“Let me (be) very clear,” reads a letter from Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney to Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Republican. “Women in the Capitol do not want you to touch them.”

* More Oregon

The leaders of the Oregon House of Representatives said Friday that they’ve fielded complaints of harassment against a male lawmaker in the House as well as male staff members and lobbyists.

House Speaker Tina Kotek said two people made informal complaints to her about the conduct of Rep. David Gomberg.

* California

One of the most disturbing incidents to emerge involves Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, a Los Angeles Democrat who lost his seat to Democrat Patty Lopez in 2014, but regained it in 2016 with broad support of his party’s leaders.

He received that support even though he had been secretly admonished for stalking a legislative staffer and grabbing her beneath her clothes at an event in 2009. After the case was revealed, Bocanegra issued an apology, but now faces demands from women in his district to resign, The Sacramento Bee reported last week.

The story about the harassment letter broke just two days after Kevin de León, the president pro tem of the state Senate, announced that he would challenge U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat, next year.

For de León, the timing could not have been worse. For four years running, his close friend, Sen. Ricardo Lara, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has buried, without a vote, legislation that would give legislative employees the same rights that civil service workers enjoy to complain about working conditions without retaliation – bills introduced by Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez.

I’m sure I’ve missed some states here. But you get the idea.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 10:53 am:

    It’s called the #MeToo flush.

  2. - South of Sherman - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 10:54 am:

    State politics = Hollywood for far less charismatic people

  3. - Perrid - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 10:54 am:

    I wonder how many other new allegations aren’t getting media attention, like in regular companies. Obviously politicians and celebrities are getting the most air time, but I assume there is probably a spike in allegations overall.

  4. - A guy - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:00 am:

    The benefits of the fringe seem to be coming to light. In some places, they’re naming names. There may be some progress. The “closers” make me sick.

  5. - Publius - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:06 am:

    All acts listed are innaproprriate and should not to be tolerate

    Placing cameras or following an opponent with a camera to catch their missteps or to splice video and recordings is what I think is wrong with government. We are so busy telling the people how bad our opponents are instead of telling people how much better they are. The lesson of two evils campaigns need to stop. If you Explain why your opponents policies are bad you at least need to tells your policies and why they are better.

  6. - anon2 - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:07 am:

    It appears that more names have been named of legislative harassers in other states than in the Land of Lincoln.

  7. - wordslinger - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:10 am:

    When the levee breaks.

  8. - Sue - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:18 am:

    Harvey Weinstein is going to be remembered for breaking the glass ceiling far more then HRC. Even a pig like Weinstein can bring about favorable change

  9. - A guy - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:24 am:

    == Even a pig like Weinstein can bring about favorable change===

    Equally crude and profound enough to bear repeating. True.

  10. - RIJ - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:25 am:

    It won’t be enough, and it won’t last, but it’s still good to see.

  11. - Nick Name - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    Using male and female prostitutes to close deals on legislation. Ah, Florida.

  12. - Sox Fan - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:33 am:

    The worst part is how unsurprising any of this is.

  13. - Name Withheld - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:36 am:

    I want to know the names of organizations that fired women for reporting harassment by legislators or fired them when legislation got killed or changed by legislators who harassed the lobbyist. That contributed to the climate as much as the behavior of the legislators.

  14. - Responsa - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:43 am:

    To anybody who is honest in their observations it is clear that harassment is represented by more than a few powerful individuals who are officeholders across the political spectrum on both sides of the aisle across the country. This presents a unique moment when leaders of both parties can show that they take this matter seriously and that they are willing and able to work together–for once– to demand and make changes that will benefit both politics and society. Power is the common denominator, not party. Any and every attempt to politicize it here in Illinois must be met with contempt by decent people and this post by Rich shows why.

  15. - 47th Ward - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:51 am:

    Misery loves company. I’m glad to know Illinois isn’t an outlier. We already lead the nation in too many unpleasant categories. No need to be a leader when it comes to creeps in power. Average is bad enough.

  16. - a drop in - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 11:53 am:

    “Placing cameras or following an opponent with a camera to catch their missteps …”

    I have to partially disagree with you. Cameras or recordings take this out of the “he said, she said” rut.

  17. - Annonin' - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    Some states AND GovJunk and executive branch

  18. - BigDoggie - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 12:15 pm:

    The real story would be if you could find a state that didn’t have some kind of harassment problem.

  19. - Cubs in '16 - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 12:21 pm:

    Power brings out the worst in bad people. It usually brings out the best in good people. I agree with Responsa that power is the single common denominator.

  20. - poe - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 12:31 pm:

    Oh Florida, will you ever be scummy enough?

  21. - JB13 - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 1:10 pm:

    “Don’t politicize this” Translation: My guys are complicit in this, and I can’t find any way to pin this on their guys. So let’s blame everyone, and thus no one, and get back to the business of preserving our power

  22. - Nogifts - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 1:15 pm:

    Maybe we need to require legislators to wear body cams too? Lol

  23. - Highland, IL - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 1:18 pm:

    Missouri had their issues as well….

  24. - SaulGoodman - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 1:23 pm:

    **Harvey Weinstein is going to be remembered for breaking the glass ceiling far more then HRC. Even a pig like Weinstein can bring about favorable change**

    Don’t be so sure. I have heard from more than one female lobbyist that this is already reducing their access to legislators.

    Women should be able to have the same access as men — that means if I can be in an office alone, or go to dinner alone, with a legislator, female lobbyists should be able to do the same.

    Men who fear being accused of sexual harassment shouldn’t limit access (and that is now already happening), but instead, wait for it… should just not sexually harass women.

    If what results from this is less sexual harassment, but also less access for women, that is arguable a step backwards for women.

  25. - Shark Sandwich - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 1:33 pm:

    “Men who fear being accused of sexual harassment shouldn’t limit access (and that is now already happening), but instead, wait for it… should just not sexually harass women.”

    Yeah, but, behaving is not enough to protect you. Much like doctors practicing ‘defensive medicine’, you can understand a legislator wanting to avoid any chance of an accusation.

    After all, this is an industry where “closers” has a specific definition. If they can do that, what’s to stop them from using an allegation as leverage to move a bill?

  26. - cannon649 - Monday, Nov 6, 17 @ 2:38 pm:

    I question the timing. When the Weinstien “story” was breaking the who paid for the Russians story. Then the Uraniun One story broke. Harvey story may have cover some this coverage - timing was perfect.

    However the dams are breaking everywhere

  27. - Generic Drone - Tuesday, Nov 7, 17 @ 12:51 am:

    Wonder what kind of tax write off the folks behind the scene will get for the”closers”?

  28. - Colin O'Scopey - Tuesday, Nov 7, 17 @ 8:07 am:

    Rich, you missed a doozy in our neighboring state to the West, in Iowa, where the Senate Republicans were held liable for a two million dollar plus judgement, which was ultimately settled, due to sexual harassment of a female staffer. This was last year.

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