Jackie Speier was a 23-year-old congressional staffer excited about her new job on Capitol Hill when her chief of staff got her alone in a room. The 50-year-old grabbed her face and stuck his tongue down her throat.
Now, four and a half decades later, the Peninsula congresswoman is leading the charge in Congress to clean up what she calls a culture of sexual harassment in the Capitol.
.. “I’m embarrassed to say it, but I think Congress has been an enabler of sexual harassers for a long time,” Speier, a Democrat who represents San Mateo County, said in an interview this week.
.. Speier is now the lead sponsor of a bill that would reform the Office of Compliance, the obscure congressional office that investigates — and, activists say, often covers up — sexual harassment.
.. The office “was really created to protect the harassers,” Speier said.
.. Her legislation would shake that up, prohibiting nondisclosure agreements as a requirement to start an investigation
.. The bill, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, has received bipartisan support.
.. “It does seem like it’s an Animal House up there right now — it’s disgusting.”
.. But Speier said that she knows that national attention can be fickle, and thinks that she and other advocates may have a limited window to pass reforms while the focus is on sexual harassment.
.. Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles newscaster, said she decided to publicly accuse Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, of harassing and groping her after interviewing Speier and hearing her story. Tweeden wrote in an article that she came forward because she wanted to have the same effect on other victims of harassment “that Congresswoman Jackie Speier had on me.”
.. Speier has said she knows of two current members of Congress, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, who have been accused of sexual harassment. Neither of those is Franken or Rep. John Conyers