Monday October 15th, 2018 3:19PM

Latest front in Weinstein scandal: Statehouses say 'me too'

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

CHICAGO (AP) — The response to sexual harassment allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein has spread to statehouses nationwide, with hundreds of lawmakers, lobbyists and consultants coming forward to say the problem is pervasive in the halls of political power.

Illinois became the latest to join the chorus, as signatures piled up Tuesday on an open letter describing harassment and intimidation for women trying to negotiate legislation and work on campaigns. In California this week, the Senate hired a law firm to investigate after women described a culture of sexual intimidation.

Lawmakers in Oregon and Rhode Island have spoken up to accuse male colleagues of inappropriate touching or suggesting that sexual favors be a condition for advancing bills.

"Every industry has its own version of the casting couch," read the letter circulating in Illinois, which by Tuesday had more than 130 signatures. "Ask any woman who has lobbied the halls of the Capitol, staffed Council Chambers, or slogged through brutal hours on the campaign trail. Misogyny is alive and well in this industry."

While political sex scandals aren't new, the Weinstein allegations and ensuing #MeToo social media movement have put an intense spotlight on the issue in politics. More women are coming forward with stories, some are naming names and states are making fresh promises of investigations and of legislation.

Most states have formal written policies for legislative employees on sexual harassment, according to a July report from the National Conference of State Legislatures. But the rules are less clear for others who work at state capitols, including lobbyists and consultants. Also, the culture of statehouses may be fueling the problem.

Several risk factors for sexual harassment identified by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are deep-seated at state capitols: Lack of diversity, power disparities, tolerating or encouraging alcohol consumption, and many young staffers.

Illinois political fundraiser Katelynd Duncan, who helped craft the Illinois letter — signed "The Women Who Make Illinois Run" and accompanied by a private Facebook group — said she was fired from a political campaign in her 20s for reporting inappropriate behavior.

"Very early on in my career, I was taught if I speak up, there'll be negative repercussions," she said. "I had to modify my behaviors to continue doing my job."

In California, a similar letter circulated last week with signers that included lawmakers, lobbyists, political consultants and legislative staff members. The list has turned into an organized campaign called "We Said Enough." The group wants to launch a nonprofit and hold forums. In response, the Senate hired an outside law firm on Monday to investigate the claims.

"I did not know it was as serious or as a big a problem as it was since I saw the letter," said Sen. Connie Leyva, a leader of the Legislative Women's Caucus. "Enough is enough. I can't believe it's 2017 and this is still happening."

Elsewhere, specific allegations surfaced.

A female state senator in Oregon accused a male colleague of inappropriate touching, and his committee assignments were removed as a punishment. In Rhode Island, Democratic Rep. Teresa Tanzi alleged she was told by a more senior lawmaker that sexual favors would allow her bills to go further.

Her revelation prompted an outcry, and state police and the attorney general's office announced they'd launch an inquiry.

"The best outcome for me right now is to look ahead and move forward and to continue to make it so that the next generation of children don't have to endure the same issues that we're facing today," Tanzi said.

Some states pledged to boost training.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, an Illinois Democrat, filed a resolution Tuesday "to change the culture that breeds such behavior." Another proposal was in the works to require legislators, lobbyists and staff to undergo sexual harassment training. Top leaders said they also would require policies for lobbyists.

But some were skeptical of the new efforts.

In California, some raised questions about a firm hired by Senate leadership and are calling for an investigator not chosen by lawmakers, as well as the creation of third-party channels for women and men to bring forward harassment complaints. Complaints brought forward now are handled through Senate and Assembly committees, and many women said they don't report inappropriate behavior for fear it won't be taken seriously or their jobs will be in jeopardy.

Others called for more women in politics, with advocates saying the dearth of women officeholders has consequences.

Though women are more than half of the American population, they account for just a fifth of all U.S. representatives and senators, and one in four state lawmakers, according to data collected by the Center for Women in Politics at Rutgers University.

In Tennessee, Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, who was the first female House majority leader in state history, said it took 10 years for her to pass legislation that would make the penalty for spousal rape equal with that of non-spousal rape. Some of her male colleagues didn't believe it was a crime.

She said more women at all levels of government would make it clear that certain behaviors, like sexual harassment, are unacceptable.

"You need people at the table who can explain to them what the effect of their words are," she said. "If there are no women to explain why that is sexist or why they can't say that, I don't know if you can ever get people to understand that their words really do matter and their actions really do matter."


Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta, Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon, and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento contributed to this report.


Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter at


Sign up for the AP's weekly newsletter showcasing our best reporting from the Midwest and Texas: —

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, AP Business, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Latest front in Weinstein scandal: Statehouses say 'me too'
An open letter alleging widespread sexual harassment in Illinois politics and urging women and their allies to come forward is circulating around the state Capitol
6:36PM ( 8 minutes ago )
GOP senators blister Trump, reveal party at war with itself
One Republican senator announces his retirement with a broadside against President Donald Trump and a second attacks the president in a series of interviews _ an extraordinary day of public GOP division
6:31PM ( 12 minutes ago )
US probes 2nd Air Canada jet safety event in San Francisco
The Federal Aviation Authority is investigating why an Air Canada plane ignored repeated orders by an air traffic controller at San Francisco International Airport to abort a landing over the weekend
6:30PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
GOP lawmakers propose new conditions on health bill
Two top Republicans are proposing a bill for restoring federal payments to insurers that includes tough conditions sought by the White House and congressional conservatives
6:08PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Former production assistant alleges Weinstein sexual assault
A fourth woman has come forward alleging that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her after her repeated refusals.
6:06PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Senate passes $36.5B disaster aid bill; Trump signature next
The Senate has passed a $36.5 billion emergency aid measure to refill disaster accounts
6:06PM ( 37 minutes ago )
AP National News
Iditarod sled dog race is engulfed in dog-doping scandal
The Iditarod _ the world's most famous sled dog race _ has become engulfed in a doping scandal involving a four-time champion's team of huskies
5:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
Seager starts at shortstop for Dodgers in Series opener
Corey Seager was in the starting lineup at shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series opener against the Houston Astros
4:47PM ( 1 hour ago )
GOP Sen. Flake, vocal Trump critic, won't seek re-election
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake announced Tuesday he would not run for re-election in 2018, condemning in a speech aimed at President Donald Trump the "flagrant disregard of truth and decency" that is undermining American democracy
4:43PM ( 2 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Trump crowdsources GOP senators on choice for Fed chair
President Donald Trump has turned to Republican senators for advice as he nears a decision on naming a new head of the Federal Reserve, the most critical personnel choice affecting the economy that he'll make in his presidency
6:02PM ( 41 minutes ago )
Man who got within a few yards of Trump arrested for protest
U.S. Capitol Police say a protester who got within several yards of President Donald Trump in the Capitol and shouted "Trump is treason" was arrested and charged with unlawful conduct
5:28PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Bannon-linked PAC hails Flake announcement
A political action committee linked to Steve Bannon is calling Republican Sen. Jeff Flake's planned retirement a "monumental win"
5:18PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Ex-Philadelphia district attorney gets 5-year term for bribe
Philadelphia's former top prosecutor has been sentenced to five years in prison for accepting a bribe
4:33PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Sanders says Flake lacks support for re-election
The White House says Sen. Jeff Flake's decision not to seek re-election was "probably a good move," arguing that he lacks enough support in his home state to win in 2018
4:17PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: GOP's Flake to retire, speech takes aim at Trump
Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, has announced he won't run for re-election in 2018
3:47PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Kenya's top court to hear petition to postpone election
Kenya's top court to hear last-minute petition to postpone presidential vote
3:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Supreme Court judge's driver shot before hearing
Nairobi's police chief Japheth Koome says the police driver of the Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu has been shot and seriously wounded, the night before the Supreme Court is hearing an application to postpone Thursday's elections
1:44PM ( 5 hours ago )
'Are you kidding me?': Kid Rock says no to US Senate run
Kid Rock says he's not running for U.S. Senate in Michigan
11:05AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Elections
Caterpillar profit surges on equipment demand
Caterpillar's 3Q profit surges on equipment demand, prompting guidance boost
5:22PM ( 1 hour ago )
GM, other US industrial giants, hit all-time highs
Shares of General Motors hit an all-time Tuesday as investors focused on a $2.5 billion third-quarter pretax profit and ignored a big accounting loss.
5:15PM ( 1 hour ago )
McDiscount: $1 soda, 2 for $5 deals lure more to McDonald's
Cheap soda and burgers helped bring more people into McDonald's.
5:12PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Special election set to fill anti-abortion lawmaker's seat
Pennsylvania sets March 13 special election to finish term of disgraced Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, anti-abortion lawmaker who resigned after newspaper revealed he'd suggested his mistress get an abortion
6:00PM ( 1 day ago )
McCain critiques Trump without labeling him 'draft dodger'
Sen. John McCain is criticizing a draft system during Vietnam that allowed wealthy individuals like Donald Trump to procure doctors' excuses getting them out of serving
4:10PM ( 1 day ago )
Sen. McCain declines to label Trump as a draft dodger
Sen. John McCain is declining to label President Donald Trump a 'draft dodger' even as he renews criticism of a system that allowed some wealthy Americans to avoid service in Vietnam by getting doctors' excuses
12:43PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
GOP senators blister Trump, reveal party at war with itself
One Republican senator announces his retirement with a broadside against President Donald Trump and a second attacks the president in a series of interviews _ an extraordinary day of public GOP division
6:31PM ( 13 minutes ago )
US probes 2nd Air Canada jet safety event in San Francisco
The Federal Aviation Authority is investigating why an Air Canada plane ignored repeated orders by an air traffic controller at San Francisco International Airport to abort a landing over the weekend
6:30PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Democrat urges probe of power contract to Zinke neighbor
A Democratic congressman is calling for Congress to investigate a $300 million contract awarded to a small company based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana
6:20PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Alaska senators tell Trump they want mountain's name to stay
One Obama administration action that may be safe under President Donald Trump is the renaming of North America's tallest peak to Denali
6:14PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Marshawn Lynch's appeal of 1-game suspension denied
Marshawn Lynch's appeal of his one-game suspension for shoving an official has been denied and the running back will miss Oakland's game this week at Buffalo
6:09PM ( 35 minutes ago )