Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, made a commitment to taxpayers. Then, he announced his retirement.
After reports late last year revealed the congressman settled a former staffer's sexual harassment complaint with taxpayer money, he said he would pay it back. On Dec. 4, Farenthold told a local outlet he was "going to hand a check over this week to probably Speaker Ryan or somebody and say, 'Look, here's the amount of my settlement. Give it back to the taxpayers. I want to be clear that I didn't do anything wrong, but I also don't want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this."
By February, Farenthold wasn't so sure.
His chief of staff told HuffPost the congressman was "waiting on the advice of counsel to see what final bill is enacted," referring to whether the Senate would pass a version of the Congressional Accountability Act. "Once the final bill is done and the law is changed and is complete and he can see that, he will make a determination of how he proceeds."
CNN ran a follow-up story on Monday, arguing there's "no sign" Farenthold, who denies the allegation but apologized for creating un unprofessional workplace, has paid the money back. According to the article, his office went dark on CNN, ignoring repeated requests for comment. A Washington Examiner inquiry as to whether Farenthold has returned the settlement money went unanswered as well.
What's changed between the time he made that original commitment and now?
Farenthold announced he would retire at the end of his term on Dec. 14., effectively eliminating his incentive to remain accountable to taxpayers.
If taxpayers deserved the money back in December, they deserve it back now. With no looming threat of re-election, Farenthold knows he can hold onto his settlement money without facing any electoral consequences.
But given that we're still paying his salary, taxpayers deserve answers as to why they're still "on the hook" for that settlement.