Former Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold famously used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim made by former staff member Lauren Green. Once exposed, the Congressman went on television to promise voters he would replay every cent, only to resign months later without having paid a penny. Now in the private sector and working a lucrative new job, lobbyist Blake Farenthold is saying he will not be repaying $84,000 to taxpayers.
My lawyer made me not do it
The headlines about Farenthold’s life as a private citizen have been coming thick and fast lately.
First he clarified what everyone expected: he will not be repaying the taxpayer money used to settle the sexual harassment claim made against him.
Speaking to ABC News last Tuesday he said, “I will say this on the record: I have been advised by my attorneys not to repay that. That’s why it hasn’t been repaid.”
As there was no legal requirement for Farenthold to make the repayment – just a moral one – it is hard to imagine any lawyer advising a client to pay $84,000 they did not have to pay. Some might also say it is also hard to imagine a worse place to get advice on moral decisions than your attorney.
Ultimately, the arguments put forward by Republican leaders for the repayment were based on Farenthold’s honor, nothing else.
Lobbyist Blake Farenthold on $160,000 annual salary
Refusing to repay the $84,000 is certainly not because of a lack of financial means. Barely a month since he finished off being a Congressman, Lobbyist Blake Farenthold was born.
As a “legislative liaison” for the Calhoun Port Authority (previously known by the tongue-twisting name “Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort”), Farenthold is on a nice comfortable salary of $160,000 a year.
He celebrated the news by calling local talk radio station 1360 KKTX-AM and saying, “I’m starting a new job today that has an hour-and-a-half commute. You’re going to have me listening and calling in a whole lot now.”
Which must have cheered Corpus-Christi radio listeners up to no end.
But it may not be all good news for Lobbyist Blake Farenthold – a local newspaper is questioning the legality of his hiring.
“His conduct has made him radioactive”
The Victoria Advocate ran a story on Thursday alleging that the Calhoun Port Authority and its executive director Charles Hausmann appear to have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when it hired Farenthold.
“Where is the agenda and the minutes of any meeting where Mr. Hausmann was given the authority to hire a lobbyist for $160,000 like Farenthold? Either way, the public had no notice,” attorney John Griffin told the Advocate.
The minutes of the meeting where the decision was taken have not been made public, no one is entirely sure why the decision was taken. The Advocate has received copies of emails from Farenthold asking Hausmann to hire him two weeks after he left Congress on April 6, however.
When asked about the issue at an event hosted by reporters at the Texas Tribune, Farenthold refused to talk to reporters:
“I’m trying to get on with my life. I wasn’t involved other than I talked to them about a job. I don’t know anything about it. I’m not talking to reporters. I’m a private citizen now.”
As some have noted, this is the first time the Calhoun Port Authority has ever hired a lobbyist. Already there are signs that the benefits of hiring lobbyist Blake Farenthold will be fairly limited. Former colleagues of the disgraced congressman are urging others not to meet with him.
Democratic Representative Jackie Speier told the Advocate, “I think it’s very disheartening that, first of all, he lies and that, secondly, he would be hired by an entity who thinks he can be persuasive. I really think his conduct has made him radioactive.”