DISGRACED EX-CONGRESSMAN Blake Farenthold (R) made even clearer this week that his exile from Congress was well-deserved — and raised questions about why a Texas port would want him to be the public face of its operation.
Mr. Farenthold resigned last month amid allegations that he sexually harassed members of his staff, used official money for campaign purposes and lied in testimony to the House Ethics Committee. A former staffer lodged complaints several years ago, before she took an $84,000 settlement to drop the matter. But that $84,000 came from a public fund, not from Mr. Farenthold’s own pocket, despite the fact that the former congressman has a net worth well beyond $2 million.
Before his abrupt departure, he promised to reimburse the taxpayers. “I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also don’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for this,” he said. Yet on Tuesday he appeared determined to break his promise. “I will say this on the record: I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that,” Mr. Farenthold told an ABC News reporter. “That’s why it hasn’t been repaid.”
There does not appear to be a legal way to require the former congressman to keep his word and pay up. But the rights and wrongs here are not complicated. Using the public’s money to cover up sexual harassment claims in a congressional office should never have been an option. Mr. Farenthold pretended to understand this while he was still in office; he brazenly shed any shame after he left public service.
We would say that Mr. Farenthold’s resignation did not come a moment too soon, except that he timed it to escape any accountability. The House Ethics Committee was about to reveal what it had found in its investigation of Mr. Farenthold’s alleged conduct. A public hearing appeared to be in the works. Tipped off, Mr. Farenthold resigned shortly before the committee could act, stripping the committee of jurisdiction. But exiting Congress does not relieve him of his responsibility to the public.
Which makes it all the more puzzling that Mr. Farenthold has secured a well-lubricated job as legislative liaison for the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort, a shipping terminal north of Corpus Christi, Tex. “Blake has always been a strong supporter of the Calhoun Port Authority and is familiar with the issues facing the Port,” his new bosses said in a statement. Maybe they are just showing their gratitude: The Washington Examiner reported that two years ago Mr. Farenthold secured $2.14 million for new dredging at the port. Now he will get $160,000 per year.
Having spun alleged piggishness and clear broken promises into a cushy new gig, the least he can do is pay back that $84,000, as promised.
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