Disgraced former congressman Blake Farenthold won’t repay $84K sexual harassment settlement

PHOTO: Rep. Blake Farenthold leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol in Washington D.C., on May 13, 2015. PlayBill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images FILE
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Former Rep. Blake Farenthold, the disgraced Texas Republican who resigned last month in the aftermath of a sexual harassment settlement, has secured his next paid gig – as a government lobbyist. But even though he’s going to be raking in a reported six-figure salary, Farenthold told ABC News that he has no intention of repaying an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement funded by taxpayers.

Farenthold told a Corpus Christi, Texas talk radio station Monday that he’s accepted a position as a “legislative liaison” at the Calhoun Port Authority, previously known as the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort. Farenthold’s hiring announcement was first reported by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Reached via phone Tuesday morning by ABC News, Farenthold declined to comment on his new job.

“I’m a private citizen now, so I’m not commenting about my employment,” Farenthold said.

Farenthold then made clear that he has no intention of repaying an $84,000 taxpayer settlement stemming from a 2014 complaint by a former congressional aide alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation.

“I will say this on the record: I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that,” Farenthold told ABC. “That’s why it hasn’t been repaid.”

Farenthold refused to disclose his attorneys’ justification for that legal advice.

After Farenthold resigned on April 6, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he fully expected Farenthold to repay the settlement to the U.S. Treasury. The House Ethics Committee even released a statement urging Farenthold to uphold his promise to repay the settlement.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has also demanded Farenthold cover the costs for a special election to fill his seat in the 27th district, though Farenthold has also signaled he will not cover that expense either.

In a May 2 letter, which Farenthold mistakenly addressed to The Honorable “Gregg” Abbott, Farenthold pointed at Texas special election Texas law, contending that Abbott’s call for a special election was “not warranted and should not have been called.”

“Since I didn’t call it and don’t think it’s necessary, I shouldn’t be asked to pay for it,” Farenthold wrote.

Farenthold declined to further discuss the governor's request with ABC.

Farenthold served in the House of Representatives from January 5, 2011, until April 6, 2018. He sat on the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Judiciary.

"I'm starting a new job today that has an hour-and-a-half commute," Farenthold said on 1360 KKTX-AM's Lago in the Morning. "You're gonna have me listening and calling in a whole lot now."

His annual salary will be $160,000.10, just under the $174,000 he was paid in the House, according to Charles R. Hausmann, port director at the Calhoun Port Authority.

"Blake is paid biweekly a salary of $6,153.85. He will not receive any incentives/bonuses," Hausmann wrote in an email to ABC.

Hausmann confirmed that Farenthold started his new job on Monday, and added he "assisted on many projects that have benefited the Port and his District that led to his hiring."

While former members of the House are prohibited from lobbying for at least one year after leaving office, Farenthold is seizing on a loophole that enables him to lobby on behalf of a government agency immediately. “Cooling off” restrictions do not apply to former lawmakers employed by a government agency, institutions of higher education and hospitals or medical research organizations, according to House Ethics rules.

In a news release, Hausmann noted that Farenthold would be the port's "full-time legislative liaison" and "will be responsible for promoting the port’s agenda" and "helping in resolving funding issues."

"Blake has always been a strong supporter of the Calhoun Port Authority and is familiar with the issues facing the Port. The Board looks forward to the services Blake can provide in assisting the Port with matters in Washington, D.C.," Hausmann stated.

Hausmann added that Farenthold will also work to increase the Port’s presence and visibility in Washington with legislators, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Executive Branch, and other policy makers "to further the Port’s agenda and to obtain public funding."

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