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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New WAPO Eric Massa Reports Calls Congressional Ethics Procedure Into Question

It seems longer, but was only six weeks ago that Congressman Eric Massa resigned, first claiming it his health, than making charges that because he voted against the House version of Obamacare, the house leadership was using the ethics committee to get back at him. Massa then went on to make other dirty trick charges regarding House leadership which turned out to be nonsense.

The charges that did seem real were the ones being made against Massa, that he sexually harassed some of his male staffers, which Massa contended involved only one incident, which he described on the Glenn Beck show as:
Yeah, I did! Not only did I grope him I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday, it was kill the old guy. You can take anything out of context.”

That charge was followed up with one that accused him of being inappropriate as a Navy Officer.Joshua Green reported :

According to Peter Clarke, a Navy shipmate, Massa was notorious for making unwanted advances toward [male] subordinates. He tells the story of his friend Stuart Borsch, with whom Massa shared a hotel room while on leave during the first Gulf War. "Stuart's at the edge of the bed," Clarke says Borsch told him at the time, "and [Massa] starts massaging him. Massa said, 'You'll have to get one of my special massages.' He called them 'Massa Massages.'" Ron Moss, a Navy shipmate and Borsch's roommate, confirmed that Borsch told him this story at the time.
Today the Washington Post published a story telling more of Massa's problems in congress, this guy seems as if he was a serial harasser.  As soon as got comfortable in his office Massa started harassing the most vulnerable on his staff, he started making inappropriate lewd statements to his most junior staffers. That was only the beginning, according to the report
Beginning in March 2009 and over the next several months, male staffers complained that their boss had touched them in a sexual manner, came up with reasons to have staffers travel alone with him on overnight trips, and expressed a desire to have sex with the men in the office.
...In one instance, a staffer said he alerted Joe Racalto, Massa's chief of staff, in March 2009 that Massa tried to fondle a young colleague in a hotel room during the 2008 campaign. Racalto told staffers he believed their complaints, because he had heard similar stories, according to staffers. Two sources said that Racalto told staffers he himself had been a victim of Massa's advances. 
It took a year for Massa's staffers to complain to house leadership, which should tell you a lot about how uncomfortable the staffers are in reporting harassment to house leadership. There needs to be some system set up where people can make claims and they can be investigated without retribution to the victim.
"Both the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff attempted to rein in the Congressman, but their efforts were ineffectual and by the fall of 2009, Congressman Massa's behavior spiraled out of control," Debra Katz, attorney for one staffer who alleges he was harassed by Massa and has initiated a complaint against him, said in a statement. "This left my client and other gay men in the office even more vulnerable to Representative Massa's predatory behavior."
Along with a new system to help people make claims, this article points to another problem with Congressional investigations.  Based on house rules, the ethics claims against Massa are closed, yet it is obvious from reading the full article the reporters got their hands on a personal file that they had no right to. It is one thing when that files contain information about a predatory creep like Massa, but what if it was the file of someone whose charges were totally made up (yes, I acknowledge that Massa has not receive a trial, but at least with him there is an established history)? Maybe that is the answer, an ethics investigation goes to completion whether the member resigns or not, that would insure that both sides get justice. Either way, Congress must create new ways of protecting the accuser and the accused.

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