The House Committee on Ethics announced today that it won't start a full-on investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Alcee Hastings.
This all stems from a complaint -- an accompanying federal lawsuit that's still alive -- from a woman named Winsome Packer, who worked on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation chaired by Hastings, claiming the congressman made "unwelcome sexual advances" and engaged in a bit of "unwelcome touching." She claims she faced retaliation from Hastings when she tried report the claims to someone else on Hastings' staff.
A statement from the committee claims it's going to "gather additional information" and continue the review, but there won't be an investigative subcommittee.
The committee also released the September report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, which forwarded its case to the House committee with a 5-1 vote asking for "further review" of the case.
Since the House committee's not setting up a panel, Hastings is viewing it as a victory.
"After having months to investigate these very serious -- and false -- claims, the Office of Congressional Ethics did not find any evidence to substantiate Ms. Packer's allegations," Hastings says in a statement. "The OCE's report parrots Ms. Packer's allegations, but it does not credit her statements as truthful or point to any evidence that corroborates her claims. Instead, the OCE referred the matter to the Committee on Ethics on the chance that the Committee might be able to uncover some evidence to which the OCE was not privy."
Hastings still vehemently denies the allegations, and today offers a further explanation of what's been released with that OCE report:
The OCE's report ignores the contradictions in the various versions of Ms. Packer's stories. It also disregards the testimony of disinterested third parties that directly contradicts Ms. Packer's allegations.
The OCE also completely failed to assess Ms. Packer's motivations. Ms. Packer has a self-published book entitled, A Personal Agenda, which she has stated 'seeks to provoke its readers by examining ... sexual harassment in Congress' and supposedly was 'inspired by her own experiences.'
Ms. Packer began publicizing her book in June 2010, shortly before she lodged her complaint against me. And in her personal offerings she has indicated that she plans to write a sequel. The OCE did not explore the connection between the complainant's allegations and her side career as a novelist.
It is also no coincidence that Ms. Packer is represented by Judicial Watch, a conservative organization that has targeted Democrats in general and me in particular. Judicial Watch's representation of Ms. Packer is a marriage of convenience. Ms. Packer's lawsuit, like her book, is a fictitious effort to promote her 'personal agenda' - including increasing sales of her novel. This effort will fail as no amount of political maneuvering can obscure the truth; Ms. Packer's allegations are false and without merit.
I look forward to the Committee on Ethics' review of these bogus charges, and am confident that it will conclude, as have the General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives, Counsel of the House Employment Counsel, and the United States Justice Department, that the claims are false.
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The OCE report on the matter can be found by clicking here.