September 18, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) yesterday testified in front of the House Rules Committee on two rule proposals she introduced. First is a rule mandating sexual harassment training for Members of Congress and their staff. Second is a rule mandating that individuals from think tanks who testify before Congress report contributions those think tanks have received from foreign governments.

1.    Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training

Currently, sexual harassment training is voluntary for both Members of Congress and their staff. Sexual harassment training is already mandatory for the executive branch agencies, and it has proven to result in a significant reduction in the number of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. Congresswoman Speier was also able to get appropriations for expanded sexual harassment trainings in this year’s Legislative Branch Appropriations Act.

“I have spent a lot of time speaking about sexual harassment and the epidemic of rape in the military and on college campuses. It is just as important that we bring the same scrutiny to our own House,” said Speier. “Before my staff requested a training, the Office of Compliance said no member had ever asked for training without a report of sexual harassment occurring within their office. This is not a Democratic issue, and this is not a Republican issue. This is a House issue.”

2.    Mandatory reporting of foreign government contributions

This amendment would require any nongovernmental witnesses testifying before House committees to disclose payments from foreign governments. The New York Times recently reported that foreign governments have donated tens of millions of dollars to think tanks in Washington, D.C. to influence U.S. policy. First reported in the New York Times, foreign governments have donated tens of millions of dollars to think tanks in Washington, D.C. Brookings Institution, for example, receives 12 percent of its annual funding from foreign governments, and the Atlantic Council has relied on foreign governments to provide between 5 and 20 percent of its annual budget. Many of these groups testify in front of Congress, including before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee.

“We need laws in place to show Congress and the American people possible bias in information,” said Congresswoman Speier. “Lobbyists for foreign governments are required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act to register as foreign agents with the Department of Justice. Groups testifying in front of Congress must disclose grants or contracts they receive from the federal government. These disclosure measures should be extended to foreign government funding at think tanks. It is vital for assessing the best policies to protect our national security.”