Congress

BLAKE Act targets future Blake Farentholds

Legislation is named for former congressman who reneged on repaying funds for sexual harassment settlement

The Bad Lawmakers Accountability and Key Emends Act is named for Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold might have resigned in disgrace, but he’s still making a mark on Capitol Hill.

The BLAKE Act, or the Bad Lawmakers Accountability and Key Emends Act, would bar any former member of Congress from behaving like Farenthold. Specifically, the legislation would prevent any member of Congress from cashing in on his time in office with a plum lobbying job if that member had used tax dollars to settle a sexual harassment claim and had not reimbursed federal coffers.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, plans to introduce the bill Wednesday, according to the Huffington Post, which first reported this story.

“It’s an abuse of power to use taxpayer funds to basically cover up their actions and then leave and make a profit off their time in Congress,” Walker told the news site. “There is a fundamental problem with that concept.”

Watch: Farenthold Resigns from Congress

Farenthold exited Congress in April 2018 shortly before an Ethics subcommittee was expected to release a report on the congressman and his office for alleged sexual harassment, inappropriate comments to staff, and discrimination based on gender.

When media reports surfaced in December 2017 that Farenthold’s office had paid a former employee an $84,000 settlement over such claims, he promised to reimburse the Treasury Department fund that covers member offices’ labor and workplace disputes, but failed to follow through.

Instead, he spent most of his leftover campaign funds on legal expenses, hotel stays, and even an $860 cocktail party, per the Federal Elections Commission database.

Farenthold revealed in a radio interview less than two months after his resignation that a port authority in Texas had hired him on as a lobbyist. The position, which included a $160,000 annual salary, drew severe criticism given the ethical cloud surrounding his departure from Congress. 

The Victoria Advocate, a small paper in Farenthold’s former district, filed suit against the the port authority under state sunshine laws for failing to disclose hiring Farenthold to the taxpayer-funded position in a timely way.

After months of scrutiny, Farenthold resigned from the Calhoun Port Authority earlier this month.

Farenthold wrote in his resignation letter that he wants to help the port, in a non-employee capacity, “when it becomes legal and ethical.”

When the Victoria Advocate reached Farenthold for comment about the new bill bearing his name, he hung up.

Griffin Connolly contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.