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Taxpayers Demand End To So-Called Sexual Harassment 'Slush Fund'

WASHINGTON D.C. (CBSNewYork) -- Taxpayers are speaking out about a little known fund that's been making big headlines.

Congress' 'Office of Compliance' said over the last 20 years, taxpayers have shelled out more than $17-million on workplace settlements and awards.

"If they're found guilty, they should pay out of their own pocket. Why make us pay for their sins?" Madeline Walker said.

The Office of Compliance is like human resources for congress members, staffers, and legislative branch agencies.

Some have called the money a congressional slush fund for sexual harassment payouts.

The office said the $17-million total includes settlements pertaining to a range of workplace issues like overtime or the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Last week, Congressman John Conyers confirmed his office paid what amounted to a 'reasonable severance payment' to a former staffer who accused him of sexual harassment.

He denied the charges.

Still, members say change is needed.

"Should taxpayer dollars be used to pay out congressional sexual harassment settlements? No, absolutely not," Eliot Engel (D-NY) said.

"I think it's outrageous. If you want to settle one of these things, do it with your own money," Sean Patrick Maloney (D) said.

That's exactly what California Congresswoman Jackie Speier is trying to make happen.

She introduced legislation that would make a congress member personally responsible for payments, not the taxpayer.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a similar bill in the senate.

The quest is garnering bipartisan support.

Long Island Republican Peter King told CBS2 he's on board, along with others like Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney.

"There shouldn't be any special rules for politicians or Congress," he said.

Representative Speier's office told CBS2 they're hoping to get her bill passed quickly, but at this point there hasn't been a date set for a vote.


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