A Republican congressman plans to introduce legislation inspired by and named for former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold to prohibit members of Congress from following in the disgraced legislator’s footsteps.
The legislation is titled the Bad Lawmakers Accountability and Key Emends Act, or the BLAKE Act. It would prevent any former member of Congress from working as a congressional lobbyist if that member had used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim and hadn’t repaid the taxpayers.
In short, the BLAKE Act would prohibit anyone from behaving like Farenthold.
U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican from North Carolina, plans to introduce the legislation Wednesday. The proposal draws from Farenthold’s actions while and after he served as a congressman for Texas’ 27th District, which includes Victoria. Walker’s communications director provided the Advocate with an advance copy of the bill Tuesday night.
While in office, Farenthold admitted to using $84,000 of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim from his former communications director.
In 2018, Farenthold resigned amid an ethics investigation into the payment. Shortly after he resigned, he quietly took a job as a lobbyist for the Calhoun Port Authority. The Corpus Christi Republican got a contract that promised him $160,000 a year in exchange for advocating for the port’s interests in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
Farenthold resigned from that post Jan. 4 after months of criticism over how the port hired Farenthold.
Farenthold had initially promised to repay taxpayers the $84,000 he used to settle the harassment claim before later reneging. Farenthold said he reversed course on the advice of his lawyer.
Farenthold’s hiring is the subject of a Texas Open Meetings Act lawsuit from the Victoria Advocate. The newspaper argues that Farenthold’s hiring was improper because the public was not properly notified before he was given the taxpayer-funded position. Since then, the Advocate has investigated the Calhoun Port Authority, including its unusual policy of giving retirement benefits to board members and its response to the Advocate’s Open Meetings Act challenge.
“I’m not speaking to you guys,” Farenthold said when reached by phone Tuesday night before hanging up.