A day after Gov. Greg Abbott set a special election for the vacated seat of former Rep. Blake Farenthold, the governor handed the embattled ex-congressman a verbal lashing for failing to keep a promise to repay taxpayers for a sexual harassment claim.
“On behalf of voters in the 27th Congressional District and as Governor of the State of Texas, I am writing to demand that you cover all costs for the called special election to fill the seat now vacated following your resignation,” Abbott said.
The to-the-point message was in reference to the $84,000 settlement paid to the congressman's former communications director Lauren Greene in 2015, who had sued Farenthold over claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The settlement was brought to light after a congressional ethics investigation was opened against him and was found to have come from a taxpayer funded account used to settle congressional lawsuits.
“I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018 special election,” continued Abbott.
Farenthold chose to not seek another term in the U.S. House after the payment was uncovered in December. He had stated that he intended to repay the full amount from his own funds, but as the months drew on, Farenthold seemed to ignore his own words and quit his post abruptly April 6, shutting down all of his social media accounts and leaving office. His resignation also took away any authority that congressional leaders had to pressure him to repay the funds.
The governor continued on, citing the recovery from Hurricane Harvey as the impetus for filling the vacancy as quickly as possible.
“Hurricane relief efforts depend heavily on action at the federal level, which can only occur if Texans residing in disaster zones have full and effective representation in Congress,” Abbott said.
Earlier this month, the Huffington Post reported the reasoning behind the resignation, in that the House Ethics Committee investigating Farenthold was about to rule against him in its investigation on sexual harassment of staff members, misuse of official money and lying to the committee during testimony. Since he is now unbound to keep his promise to repay the settlement, congressmen and watchdog groups have said that the only way to see this happen is for the public to keep pressure on Farenthold to keep his word.
“This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th Congressional District should not again pay the price for your actions,” Abbott concluded. “I request a response by May 2.”