Republican Rep. Trent Franks announced his resignation Thursday after the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into the Arizona congressman and whether he “engaged in conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.” Franks, one of the most conservative House members since being elected in 2003, acknowledged asking two female members of his staff to act as surrogates. Being asked to bear their boss’s child made both subordinates uncomfortable.
“I have always tried to create a very warm and supportive atmosphere for every last person who has ever worked in my congressional office,” Franks said in a statement Thursday. “I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff. However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable.” Franks said he and his wife have struggled with infertility and now have twins from a surrogate.
The two now-former staffers came to the attention of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office when one of the women relayed her experiences with Rep. Franks to the speaker’s general counsel. It’s unclear the exact nature of the surrogacy conversations between Franks and the staff members, but, according to Ryan, the allegations amounted to “credible claims of misconduct.” Rep. Franks, when confronted, did not deny broaching the topic of surrogacy with his staff. Ryan referred the case to the Ethics Committee and asked for Franks’ resignation.
Franks’ resignation comes just hours after Democratic Sen. Al Franken announced he would step down after multiple complaints of sexual misconduct. Meanwhile, another ethics investigation was opened into allegations that Rep. Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas, sexually harassed a former staff member. The accusation led to a lawsuit that Farenthold settled, using $84,000 of taxpayer money.
Franks said he will leave office on Jan. 31, which will end the ethics investigation.