Sexual Harassment Victims Face Limited Recourse When Working for Political Campaigns

Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Alexis Ronickher was quoted in a Huffington Post article, “Her Sexual Harassment Claim was Found Credible. By Then She’d Already Left Politics.”

Samantha Register was a finance director for Ruben Kihuen’s 2016 congressional campaign, when she said that he sexually harassed her until she quit the campaign, and eventually politics. Register reported Kihuen’s conduct to the DCCC, but her complaint died in the hands of a mid-level staffer who denied the organization had any duty to act.

Over a year later, Register spoke to Buzzfeed, which led to an ethics investigation by the House Ethics Committee. After hiring an attorney and testifying before the committee, Kihuen was issued a reproval – the least serious reprimand.

Since then, the DCCC has updated its policy and requires staff to learn the new procedures for handling sexual harassment cases. But political campaigns are their own entities often without a clear chain of command. According to Ms. Ronickher, an important step to improving the reporting process is to give the organization structured policies and procedures. But on a strategic level, campaigns would be smart to go beyond simply implementing policies and instead actively combat sexual harassment to avoid potential scandals. 

“If there’s more faith in the internal mechanisms of the party caucuses or the party campaign arms, that a staffer could go to them and say, ‘This is happening to me,’ and there would be action, that would make a difference,” said Ms. Ronickher.

The House Ethics Committee eventually determined that Kihuen sexually harassed three separate women. He is currently running for Las Vegas City Council.

Read the full story here.