The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nine members of Congress have lost their jobs over sex in six months

The congressman who said he considered his former aide his “soulmate,” Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), resigned April 28. (Video: Reuters)
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Here's a depressing fact: Nine members of Congress have lost their jobs over allegations of sexual impropriety or related workplace misconduct since October.

The latest: Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) announced Friday he was resigning from Congress in connection with reports he paid a secret settlement to a staffer to whom he allegedly professed his love.

Meehan said in January that he would retire at the end of the year, but he decided to resign immediately as a congressional ethics probe into allegations against him gathered momentum.

Since sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced last year launched the #MeToo era, some of the most powerful people in politics, media and entertainment have been brought down. In one week in December, three members of Congress lost their jobs.

Meanwhile, legislation to make it easier for staffers to lodge misconduct complaints against members of Congress and their top aides has stalled.

While Congress stalls, states are actually doing something about sexual harassment

Here's a recap of the other misconduct allegations that have roiled Capitol Hill and cost a remarkable number of lawmakers their jobs:

Meehan: Let's revisit his case, because it really is remarkable. He wrote what appeared to be love notes to a female staffer. When that became public, Meehan referred to the former aide in an interview to the Philadelphia Inquirer as his “soul mate.” He later tried to clarify that by soul mate, he actually meant something more of an office buddy.

Meehan announced Friday that he'll pay back the $39,000 of taxpayer money used for a settlement with the former staffer. The legislation in Congress would prevent members of Congress from making secret settlements using taxpayer money.

Rep. Blake Farenthold: Where to begin? Some of his scandals stretch back seven years. As I wrote this month when the former Texas Republican announced his resignation:

Duck pajamas, a goofy grin and his arm slung around a lingerie model was just the start. The end for Farenthold resulted from accusations from staffers — male and female — of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

Like Meehan, Farenthold had said he would retire at the end of the year, then announced he was resigning immediately as he faced a House ethics investigation.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.): Esty is the only woman on this list. She announced this month that she would not seek reelection after The Washington Post and other news outlets revealed that she let her chief of staff stay on the job for three months while knowing of an allegation that he threatened to kill a fellow staffer whom he had dated.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen: In mid-December, the Nevada Democrat said he wouldn't seek reelection amid sexual harassment allegations, including claims from women who worked for his campaign. Kihuen had just been elected to the House a year earlier, and at 37, he is so far the youngest member of Congress to be felled by reports of misconduct.

Sen. Al Franken: Franken is the only senator so far to lose his job in the #MeToo era. By the time the Minnesota Democrat reluctantly resigned, he had been accused of groping multiple women over the span of a decade.

On his way out the door in December, Franken apologized for making these women “feel badly” but did not admit doing anything wrong. Instead, he claimed that he was a “warm hugger” and that the women were simply mistaken.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) spoke on the Senate floor on Dec. 7 and announced his resignation. Watch his full remarks. (Video: U. S. Senate, Photo: Chip Somodevilla/U. S. Senate)

Rep. Trent Franks: The same week that Franken resigned, so did Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), after news broke that he had offered a female staffer $5 million to carry his child. The woman told investigators that Franks approached her with a written contract, reported The Post's Mike DeBonis. Like some lawmakers on this list, he resigned shortly after the House's Ethics Committee investigation heated up. In this case, the committee of his peers had said they would create an entire subcommittee to investigate Franks.

On Tuesday, a Democrat came within five points of winning Franks's old seat.

Rep. John Conyers Jr.: Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, resigned from the House the same week as Franks and Franken, after allegations from eight women that, in a span of two decades, he behaved inappropriately or made sexual advances.

Conyers denied the allegations, but House Democratic leadership, after initially defending him, succeeded in pushing out the 88-year-old lawmaker, one of the longest-serving in either party.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said he was retiring on Dec. 5, after facing multiple sexual harassment allegations spanning two decades. (Video: Jenny Starrs, Joyce Koh/The Washington Post)

John Conyers just ducked out the back door to escape his sexual harassment scandal

Rep. Joe Barton: The Texas Republican announced at the end of November that he would retire in 2018 after a nude photo of him circulated on the Internet. The publication of the photo, it turned out, revealed a secret relationship with a woman. Barton was separated but still legally married when his consensual relationship with the woman began.

But Barton's story parallels the allegations against others on the list in one key way: He is accused of using his power as a member of Congress to investigate the woman for sharing the photo of him.

How Joe Barton's sex scandal fits into the conversation of sex and power

Rep. Tim Murphy: One of the first resignations of this era came in early October. Murphy, an eight-term Pennsylvania Republican, announced he would resign amid reports he asked a woman with whom he was having an affair to have an abortion.

Murphy's resignation came too early to be attributed to the nation's current reckoning of sex and power. It happened on the same day that the New York Times published its investigation into allegations of sexual impropriety by Weinstein.

But the fallout from Muphy is perhaps the most politically significant of this bunch. A Democrat, Conor Lamb, replaced Murphy in Congress in a special election in March. That outcome made House Republicans realize they could lose control of the chamber in November.