Stephanie Akin

Trey Gowdy, the Reluctant Congressman
Reclusive yet often in the limelight, retiring S.C. lawmaker is eyeing his next move

Trey Gowdy has been talking about leaving Congress since he arrived seven years ago.

It’s what came to his mind when he ran into an old friend in the weeks after he was first sworn into office in 2011: “I hate this place,” he told Republican strategist Luke Byars that January. “I want to go home.”

Stage Set for 6-way Democratic Primary in Georgia 7th
May 22 race will be among the most crowded in the state

Georgia’s 7th District will have a six-way Democratic primary after a former healthcare professional qualified for the race, according to local news reports Friday. 

The seat is currently occupied by fourth-term Republican Robert Woodall and is rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. 

Deadline Approaches on Tim Scott’s Low-Income Tax Incentive
Governors have until March 21 to designate distressed communities where investors can get tax breaks

It took three years for Tim Scott to rally his Senate colleagues around a tax plan he thinks will encourage investment in low-income communities.

Now Scott, who was born in a poor community in South Carolina, has until late March to get as many state officials as he can to sign on. He’s doing it with a national “opportunity” tour of low-income areas, including upcoming visits to Florida and Ohio.

Latest Twist in Russia Investigation Involves Unnamed Member of Congress
Rick Gates’ pleaded guilty to lying about meeting that matched dinner with Rohrabacher

The wide-ranging investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign took an unexpected diversion to Capitol Hill on Friday, when former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about a meeting between his boss Paul Manafort and an unnamed member of Congress.

Gates admitted, according to court documents, that the 2013 meeting was part of a secret multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign for the Ukrainian government and its Russian-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych. Gates also pleaded guilty to conspiring with Manafort to hide the millions of dollars they were paid by the Ukrainian government.

Ethics Committee Acknowledges Investigation of John Duncan Jr.
Tennessee Republican campaign reportedly paid felon son $300,000

The House Ethics Committee acknowledged Tuesday an investigation of Rep. John Duncan Jr, a scion of a Tennessee political dynasty who announced his retirement in July. 

Duncan, a Republican, came under fire that month after reports that his campaign paid his son, John Duncan III, almost $300,000. In the five years since the younger Duncan pleaded guilty to a felony charge of official misconduct. Those payments were made in monthly installments of $6,000 recorded as salary expenses, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. 

Post-#MeToo, Stalled Careers, Alienation Still Haunt Sexual Harassment Victims
Lawmakers say they are aware of challenges

Shortly after Marion Brown’s account of sexual harassment toppled a powerful congressman last fall, she returned to Washington on a frigid afternoon to ask for support from the lawmakers who had lauded her as a hero.

Wearing a smartly tilted fur cap, she left her business cards with aides who, to her, looked two generations her junior. She hoped for a reference, a lead on a new job, a bit of advice. She left the Capitol feeling disappointed, although lawmakers told Roll Call they want to do all they can to help.

Mixed Outcomes for Members Accused of Sexual Harassment in #MeToo Aftermath
Eight have either resigned or announced retirements in recent months

Here’s a look at how several lawmakers have responded to accusations of sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement began last year.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., a member of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, after reports that he had asked a woman with whom he’d had an extramarital affair to get an abortion. Announced Oct. 5, effective Oct. 21.

Hill Staffers Get New Resource in Sexual Harassment Disputes: Their Predecessors
Former aides organize to help current staff deal with workplace complaints

A group of former congressional aides wants to help their successors come forward with sexual harassment and other discrimination complaints. So they’re offering a support network they say will fill in the gaps in a congressional workplace protection law scheduled for a House markup next week.

They have launched a website,, to collect resources, which include the names of lawyers and a public relations expert who have offered to help current staff members dealing with harassment at work.

Critics Point to Problems With Sexual Harassment Bill
Measure is intended to create more protections for Hill staffers

A bipartisan measure meant to increase protections for congressional employees who complain of sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination could make the process more cumbersome and less transparent, experts on employment law and advocates for victims and government transparency said this week.

Critics agree that the 23-year-old Congressional Accountability Act is long overdue for reform. But they said this one — expected to get broad support when it comes before the House as early as next week — could introduce more problems than it solves, possibly because it was compiled in a rush to respond to the #MeToo movement and the resulting wave of sexual harassment allegations in American institutions.

House Harassment Bill on Fast Track, but Maybe Moving Too Fast?

Lawmakers seized on the #MeToo moment to push for sweeping changes to rules dealing with sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. Experts tell reporter Stephanie Akin the current legislation is flawed and could have used more debate and deliberation....
Inspired by #MeToo, Some Staffers Are Telling Congress’ Secrets
Beneficiaries of confidential settlements challenge code of silence

Cody Standiford is not exactly saying #MeToo.  He’s never been a victim of sexual misconduct.

But he may end up helping congressional staffers who have. The Iraq War veteran recently defied a legal agreement to shed light on how Congress handles harassment and discrimination complaints.

Trump v. Bannon: Trial of the Century or Just Trash Talk?
Legal experts doubt president would brave legal scrutiny to follow through on lawsuit threat

It would be the political trial of the century: President Donald Trump versus former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

But don’t expect the president’s legal threats against his former right-hand man to escalate beyond the cease-and-desist letter from his lawyers, legal experts say.

A Huge Congressional Settlement Involving Sexual Harassment — And Hardly Anyone Knew
Lawmakers on Helsinki Commission blindsided by report of $220K payout

The $220,000 paid to former staffer Winsome Packer in 2014 is by far the largest known settlement involving Congress and accusations of sexual harassment in recent years.

But few, if any, of the lawmakers who served on the congressional commission where Packer worked seem to have been informed about it until the sum was reported by Roll Call on Friday.  

Exclusive: Taxpayers Paid $220K to Settle Case Involving Rep. Alcee Hastings
Former commission staffer alleged sexual harassment by Florida Democrat

The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.

Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.

Roll Call Reporters Discuss Covering Sexual Harassment on the Hill in the #MeToo Era

Three reporters participated this week in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit about their experiences covering the sexual harassment allegations on Capitol Hill in the quickly unfolding #MeToo era. Read the full thread from r/politics here....
Want to Know Who Else Has Been Accused of Sexual Harassment in Congress? Good Luck
Congressional offices can’t release basic details of complaints — even to lawmakers

The details of sexual harassment complaints against members of Congress and their staffs are secret and cannot be released to lawmakers seeking to determine the extent of the problem on Capitol Hill, a congressional official testified Thursday. 

“The law doesn’t allow us to release anything,” said Susan Tsui Grundmann, the executive director of the Office of Compliance, which oversees the response to sexual harassment complaints in Congress. She told a hearing of the House Administrative Committee that if lawmakers want to know more — including the number of complaints filed and the names of the accused — they will have to change the law. 

Congress Took Three Decades to Come This Far, Sexual Harassment Victim Says
Dorena Bertussi filed Hill’s first successful harassment complaint in 1988

Shortly after Dorena Bertussi’s name was published in one of the first major sexual harassment scandals in the House of Representatives, she came home to the sound of a ticking clock on her home answering machine.

The police told her she might want to find someplace else to stay for a while.

Lawmakers Still Sending Thoughts and Prayers, Despite Criticism
Outcry over expressions of sympathy symptom of deadlock on guns

Criticism of lawmakers who send “thoughts and prayers” to victims of mass shootings has attracted a lot of attention in the media. But it doesn’t appear to have caused many on Capitol Hill to find something else to say.

Roll Call reviewed statements by lawmakers after Sunday’s mass shooting during a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which left 26 people, including an unborn child, dead, authorities said. The analysis found that dozens of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reverted to some form of the expression, sparking an increasingly familiar backlash from gun control advocates and other critics who said the words have become meaningless in light of congressional inaction.

Honoring Eisenhower at Long Last
Memorial to 34th president broke ground Nov. 2

Its critics have called it a “monstrosity,” an “exercise in postmodern grandiosity,” and a “textbook example of the Washington swamp Donald Trump vowed to drain.”

Now, though, a memorial to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, mired in controversy for more than 17 years, is the newest monument under construction on the National Mall.

D.C. Delegate Wants to End Hill’s Pass on Harassment Laws
New bill would force Congress to provide employees same protections

Hill staffers would get the same legal protections against sexual harassment as other workers in the nation’s capital under a bill introduced Tuesday by D.C.’s congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton

“It is impossible to justify exempting congressional offices from the comprehensive provisions Congress now requires of private employers and federal agencies,” Norton said in a press release. “Particularly in a work environment such as Congress, where powerful figures often play an out-sized role with a sense of their own importance, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination must be met head on.”