PENNSYLVANIA — Five lawmakers are among more than 100 across the country now accused of sexual misconduct in the four years since the onset of the national “#MeToo” reckoning in 2017, according to data collected by The Associated Press.
The state lawmakers are among other politicians, entertainers and business leaders exposed in the social justice movement to end sexual abuse and sexual harassment. The movement began in 2017 when movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, now a convicted sex offender, was accused by more than 80 women of sexual misconduct allegations dating back to the late 1970s.
The movement that inspired the #MeToo hashtag also prompted a flurry of new legislation, training requirements for legislators and investigative guidelines in statehouses across America, including in Pennsylvania.
The AP compiled the database as part of its ongoing coverage of how politicians are responding to sexual misconduct claims. It includes state lawmakers only.
It doesn’t include members of Congress or other elected officials investigated regarding sexual misconduct claims — notably New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is embroiled in a sexual harassment investigation, or Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, who was initially investigated in connection with sex trafficking and now faces a larger review into public corruption.
Some of the allegations against state lawmakers are no less serious.
Nationally, more than 40 of the accused state lawmakers have resigned or were expelled from office, and at least as many others faced other repercussions, including the loss of committee leadership positions, The AP reported. A handful were cleared.
The lawmakers included in the database are predominantly men, but a couple of women also have been accused of sexual misconduct. Both Democrats and Republicans are the subjects of what could be career-ending investigations.
Republican Rep. Brian Ellis resigned in 2019 after a woman accused him of rape in 2015. Ellis was ultimately not charged with a crime.
Republican Sen. Mike Folmer was charged with possession of child pornography, which led to his resignation in 2019, as well as a conviction and one-to-two-year sentence.
Democratic Sen. Daylin Leach effectively gave up on his reelection campaign in 2018 following allegations of sexual misconduct from staffers.
Republican Rep. Nick Miccarelli didn’t seek reelection in 2018 after another state representative accused him of physical abuse when the two were in a relationship, as well as intimidating her in the state Capitol in 2018.
Democratic Rep. Tom Caltagirone refused to resign after it was revealed $250,000 in taxpayer funds were used to settle a sexual harassment claim made by a legislative assistant.
About three-fourths of the states have passed some 75 laws and resolutions over the past two years that target sexual harassment, abuse or assault in government or in private business. About half the states renewed or extended deadlines to pursue criminal charges or civil lawsuits over childhood sexual abuse.
In Pennsylvania, signed legislation includes increased penalties for not reporting child sex abuse and voiding nondisclosure agreements preventing the release of information on child sex abuse.
Pending bills would create a task force to investigate details of sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace, as well as review anti-harassment and discrimination laws and policies involving state workers.
States also updated their sexual harassment policies and required training of lawmakers on appropriate workplace conduct. At least 45 House chambers and 43 Senate chambers now require legislators to receive training on appropriate workplace conduct and on preventing, identifying and reporting sexual misconduct.
About half of state legislative chambers have turned to independent investigators to look into complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment by lawmakers.
Pennsylvania requires training for state lawmakers. All lawmakers in Harrisburg undergo training, however only the state senate has external investigations of sexual assault claims.
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