Congress makes its own rules about the handling of sexual complaints against members and staff, passing laws exempting it from practices that apply to other employers.
The result is a culture in which some lawmakers suspect harassment is rampant. Yet victims are unlikely to come forward, according to attorneys who represent them.
Under a law in place since 1995, accusers may file lawsuits only if they first agree to go through months of counseling and mediation. A special congressional office is charged with trying to resolve the cases out of court.
When settlements do occur, members do not pay them from their own office funds, a requirement in other federal agencies. Instead, the confidential payments come out of a special U.S. Treasury fund.Madison in Federalist 57: If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty.