By Joel Thurtell
Suddenly, Democrats are embarrassed that the longest serving member of their caucus and of the US House of Representatives, Democrat John Conyers, is the latest high profile male to be caught in a sexual harassment scandal.
What’s more, it seems that Conyers may have used taxpayer funds to pay off the staffer who brought the complaint.
The Conyers stench is not new.
Democrats could have avoided the current scandal if they’d confronted this problem 14 years ago, when Conyers’ errant ways with public funds were first reported on November 21, 2003 in the Detroit Free Press.
The question today is whether the latest brouhaha will embarrass Conyers’ congressional enablers enough that they persuade the 88-year-old rep (as in reprobate) to resign.
The latest Conyers sexual harassment story broke two days ago on Buzzfeed.
At the Detroit Free Press, we reported plenty of rot in the Conyers office back in the day. We had many sources, but the prime mover and the one with the best records and the steadfast will to keep pressure on Conyers was the then chief of staff in Conyers’s Southgate office, Deanna Maher.
In the early 2000’s, Maher complained to congressional authorities about Conyers and one of his male staffers sexually harassing her.
Maher says two Democratic congresswomen — Debbie Dingell and Jackie Speier — sympathize with her.
That’s great. Let’s see what happens.
The only surprise today is the media attention.
John Conyers forcing federal employees to do campaign work on the public dime?
John Conyers forcing federal employees to babysit his kids on the public dime?
John Conyers forcing federal employees to tutor his wife in her law school classes on the public dime?
Incidentally, all the tutoring was a loss: Monica Conyers flunked the Michigan bar exam four times before she was sent to prison for taking bribes.
And then there was the Thanksgiving 2004 turkey scandal, when 60 frozen turkeys provided by the Gleaners charity to Conyers’ office for distribution to needy families could not be accounted for. The turkeys were handed to Conyers staffers, and that’s where the trail of missing gobblers ended.
Democrats and Republicans alike chose to ignore the Free Press findings.
Those 2003 articles drew a map for ethics investigators and federal prosecutors. They chose to ignore it.
Conyers staffer Glenn Osowski collecting federal pay for staff work supposedly done in Dearborn while working in Carolyn Mosely Braun’s Chicago campaign office?
I have pointed out that another Detroit congressman, Charles Diggs, went to prison for making his federal staffers work in his funeral home on the public dime.
But that was Charles Diggs.
John Conyers was untouchable.
Did The New York Times pick up the story?
The Washington Post?
The politicians were at fault for ignoring and thereby tolerating Conyers’ behavior. But the media too were complicit.
The Free Press backed off.
A top Free Press editor excused the paper’s unwillingness to follow through. “Everybody does it,” he said of Conyers’ making staffers do his personal errands while cashing congressional paychecks.
When Charles Diggs did it, federal prosecutors called it fraud.
Democrats could have saved themselves boatloads of grief if back in 2003 they had made John Conyers conform to the rules and laws they applied to another black congressman from Detroit.
Drop me a line at joelthurtell(at)gmail.com