A former deputy chief of staff of U.S. Democratic Representative John Conyers has accused the long-time lawmaker of sexual harassment, the third such allegation levied against him this month.
Deanna Maher, who managed an office for Conyers in his home state of Michigan from 1997 to 2005, told the Detroit Free Press he made unwanted sexual advances toward her on three occasions.
The first occurred during a Congressional Black Caucus event in 1997, when she spurned his offer to share a hotel room and have sex. Maher said the other incidents involved unwanted touching in 1998 and 1999.
Maher, who was 57 when the veteran lawmaker allegedly harassed her the first time, said she did not come forward because she feared her age would prevent her from getting another job if she lost her position with Conyers.
The latest sexual harassment charge against Conyers is one of a number that have buffeted the Washington political scene. Democratic Senator Al Franken apologized on Capitol Hill Monday to "everyone who has counted on me to be a champion of women." Four women have accused Franken of initiating unwanted sexual contact in separate incidents.
Republican Representative Joe Barton has admitted he shared a nude photo of himself with an unidentified lover that circulated online. Barton, who has served in the House for 32 years, has accused the lover of threatening to publicize the photo when he ended the relationship.
The revelations followed allegations that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted a 14-year old girl and had sexual encounters with several young women while when he was in his 30's. Moore is campaigning in a special election in Alabama that will be decided on December 12.
A year ago, President Donald Trump was accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault or improper conduct. Many of the accusations became public when he was heard on an Access Hollywood tape boasting about kissing and groping women. Trump and the White House have denied the allegations.
The sexual allegations in Washington has increased pressure on lawmakers to curb harassment on Capitol Hill. A vote has been scheduled for Wednesday in the Republican-controlled House that would change the rules to mandate training for all lawmakers and staff employees to prevent sexual harassment.
The House will also hold hearings in December on whether the body that handles harassment complaints in the House, the Office of Compliance, would be allowed to disclose details of any future cases of sexual harassment and previously-settled instances.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday he was "deeply distressed" by the problem and did not realize it was as pervasive as it was. Hoyer said he had spoken with his daughters and women on his staff about the issue.
"One of the things we need to assure ourselves is that women who find themselves in that position are not victimized by the system. It's a huge problem in the criminal process and it is a problem in the administrative process."
Hoyer added, "It's clear that strong, effective, timely action is needed now."