Eric Massa saga just heating up

Jonathan Allen

For nearly a year, the allegations of scandalous activity in former Rep. Eric Massa’s office were kept quiet — by the congressman, by male aides who accuse him of sexually harassing them and by other congressional staff.

But with two aides coming forward last week to announce that they had filed harassment claims against the New York Democrat, charges and countercharges are exploding into full public view, ensuring that the Massa saga will not simply go away.

Instead, it will raise old questions about whether Congress is able to effectively police its own members and staff, and the degree to which staff members are responsible for — or even capable of — reining in lawmakers who are accused of abusing their power. The answers may become apparent only if the ethics committee reports on its investigation into the matter or if sexual harassment claims filed with the congressional Office of Compliance are not settled by the parties.

One thing is clear: Despite Congress’s voting in 1995 to subject its members and staff to basic employment laws, there are still tremendous institutional obstacles — both structural and political — in the path of aides who believe they have suffered discrimination or harassment.

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