I have no reason to doubt Rep. Eric Massa’s sincerity about his cancer diagnosis, but the real reason behind his sudden resignation last month is now becoming painfully clear:
Just three months after Eric Massa was elected to Congress, his young male employees on Capitol Hill began complaining to supervisors that the lawmaker was making aggressive, sexual overtures toward them, according to new interviews and internal documents.
The senior staff, one of whom said he heard Massa (D-N.Y.) making lewd remarks to young staffers, tried to manage the problem internally. But reports of Massa’s inappropriate behavior continued, leaving junior workers feeling helpless, according to victims, other staffers and sources close to an ongoing House ethics investigation. Most asked not to be named due to the ethics probe and the risk of hurting their job prospects.
This account, drawn from more than two dozen interviews and internal documents, shows that aides were accusing the 50-year-old married lawmaker of far more egregious behavior than previously known. 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.
But it wasn’t until after a year of staff complaints — when allegations about Massa’s behavior threatened to become a public embarrassment — that supervisors alerted congressional leaders to the problem. That led House leadership to demand the matter be referred to the ethics committee. Massa resigned a few weeks later when the media reported he was the subject of a harassment probe. He declined to comment for this story.
On Tuesday, in response to an earlier version of this article, House Minority Leader John Boehner called on the ethics committee to delve deeply into how such allegations could continue for a year with no relief for staff.
“It is now readily apparent that Congressman Massa’s pattern of troubling behavior continued long after Democrats first became aware of his conduct,” Boehner said. “Speaker Pelosi’s staff has acknowledged they knew about problems in Mr. Massa’s office back in the fall of 2009. What action, if any, did the Speaker and the Democratic leadership take to protect Rep. Massa’s subordinates from harassment and abuse?”
Good question, Rep. Boehner. After all, Her Highness was a leading member of the “what did the Speaker know and when did he know it” crusade against Dennis Hastert back when the Mark Foley scandal broke just before the 2006 elections. Does the “special trust” between Congressmen and staffers only exist when Republicans control the House of Representatives? Aren’t the “children who work as pages” just as precious now that Democrats are in charge of Congress? In fact, isn’t protecting “the children” the primary goal of everything the Democrats do?
Speaker Pelosi? Anyone?
A formal House Ethics Committee investigation of Massa has already been approved by privileged resolution. Speaker Pelosi certainly wouldn’t compromise the safety of teenage Congressional pages just to improve the Democrats’ chances at the polls in November, would she?