The Office of Congressional Ethics is looking into sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) by a female former staff member, according to the leader of a conservative watchdog group.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, an organization that in March sued Hastings on behalf of a former staffer who claimed Hastings made unwelcome sexual advances to her, told Politico June 22 that their client, a former staff member of a commission Hastings is part of, has been talking to staffers of the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The congressional ethics office, created to investigate allegations of improprieties by members of Congress, weighs allegations and recommends action to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the House ethics committee.
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington against the 74-year-old lawmaker in March on behalf of the woman who said Hastings made “unwelcome sexual advances” and groped her when she worked for him on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe between January 2008 and February 2010.
According to former staffer Winsome Packer, Hastings and commission officials bullied her to keep quiet about the sexual harassment.
“I have never sexually harassed anyone,” Hastings said after the lawsuit was filed according to the ABC News radio.. “In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me. When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, `How bizarre!' "
Hastings is no stranger to ethics charges. As a federal judge in South Florida, he was impeached on bribery and perjury charges by the House, convicted by the Senate and removed from the federal bench. He was later acquitted of criminal charges in the matter in federal court. Earlier this year, the House ethics committee threw out an investigation involving Hastings and five other legislators in connection with their use of federal travel funds overseas, according to the Wall Street Journal.