Back on November 20, we took note of a story from Ernest Luning of the former Colorado Statesman featuring a number of female lobbyists rising to the defense of Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial–following allegations of sexual harassment against him from a legislative aide who reportedly left the Capitol rather than deal with his unwanted advances. In particular, we recognized an undisclosed connection between at least one of the lobbyists most stoutly defending Tate’s character and legislation that both was sponsored by Tate as well as passed through Sen. Tate’s Business, Labor and Technology (BLT) Committee.
And without researching in detail, we postulated there would be more such undisclosed relationships between the lobbyists defending Tate in Luning’s story and Sen. Tate–relationships that make their rushing to defend Tate from allegations leveled by a young legislative aide something worse than merely dubious.
Today KUNC, the outlet responsible for breaking the story of widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly, published their own research into the lobbyists who defended Sen. Tate. And it’s worse than we could have imagined:
Five women lobbyists who voiced support for Sen. Jack Tate after sexual harassment allegations against him also did business before the committee he chairs earlier this year…
All five women lobbyists worked on bills sponsored by Tate or before his committee. Three of them donated to his campaign.
They’ve also come under fire from other women for their support in a series of Facebook posts, where some questioned their motivations, drawing objections from some of the lobbyists in lengthy comment threads.
Colorado Common Cause Executive Director Elena Nunez talked about the potential for conflicts.
“I think some of the conversations around some of the latest allegations and defending some legislators and not others really reveals that,” she said. “The dynamic really reveals the challenge of confronting sexual harassment in a political context.” [Pols emphasis]
That’s a very polite way of saying that not only do lobbyists have a straightforward ulterior motive for defending allied lawmakers accused of harassment, but lobbyists contribute to a culture of harassment by defending accused lawmakers against allegations from junior staffers. The reason that men with power feel comfortable engaging in behavior toward women that would make their mothers slap them silly is they know they will have defenders eager to ingratiate themselves with men who have power.
You know, like lobbyists do.
Today’s story documents the extensive connections between the lobbyists who defended Sen. Tate and legislation that Tate either sponsored or that appeared before Tate’s key Senate committee. In one case, nearly half the legislation one lobbyist was registered on was directly connected to Sen. Tate either by sponsorship or the Senate BLT Committee. That these lobbyists were able to offer their “defenses” of Sen. Tate with no disclosure whatsoever of these mutually gainful relationships is a huge problem–and now that it’s been disclosed, the credibility of Tate’s lobbyist defenders simply evaporates. The game is up.
There isn’t just one reason why sexual harassment becomes tolerated within the culture of any organization. There are lots of reasons. Yes, the men who can’t keep their hands and lecherous comments to themselves are the ones who bear 100% of the blame.
But as for the shame, it seems there is plenty to go around. There are lessons here for the men who behave this way, but also everyone who interacts with them and the institutions that provide harassers with a venue. The days of such behavior being tolerated–and enabled–are over, and we all must catch up to this new reality.
Even when it’s hard. Especially in fact.