Inaction by Chairman Kline on Child Sex Abuse Deserves Media Scrutiny

The Star-Tribune has endorsed John Kline for another term … citing his successes … (yeah, I know it is hard to understand the statement that Chairman Kline deserves credit for “steadying student loan interest rates” when rates have risen and students find they are “steadily” paying more each year) … but there is another claim that deserves scrutiny —
“Kline’s work on legislation to protect child sex trafficking victims is also commendable”.

As forecasted on the Roundtable in January that the Republicans would embrace human trafficking as a campaign issue to portray themselves as able to “work across the aisle” (without ever mentioning that the Democrats had urged passage of this legislation in previous terms) so that voters forget the GOP shutdown.

Thus, it wasn’t a shocker to see that John Kline is promoting the issue in his re-election campaign … but it is surprising that the Star-Tribune Editorial Board just accepted his word as Gospel.

To credit Erik Paulsen for his work on this issue is justified … in 2014, he spoke on the House floor, he wrote OpEds, he co-sponsored legislation … but he had to wait until the House Leadership would allow a vote.

Chairman Kline is not Erik Paulsen …. Chairman Kline holds a gavel … and “holds” is the operative word — it doesn’t hold hearings unless it is an issue that he is interested in.

On November 17, 2011, Chairman Kline received a request from the Ranking Member on the Education and the Workforce Committee to hold a hearing to address a range of issues on child sex abuse.
That letter was followed up on June 26, 2012 with another request.
Chairman Kline finally responded on July 13, 2012, stating that “[r]est assured, I share your goal of protecting children from abuse and will keep your request in mind as we gather more information about the efficacy of current federal laws.”

The power of the gavel … the Chairman “will keep your request in mind” … yeah, that’s the polite way of saying NO.

Fast forward to 2014 — after it was easily predicted that the GOP was looking for a rebranding issue — and the Democrats on the committee, once again pleaded with Chairman Kline for a hearing … writing in part on January 30, 2014 :

Today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAP) released publicly the results of its examination of efforts to address child sexual abuse by school personnel. This report is the second GAO report to our Committee on child abuse issues calling attention to shortcomings in existing state and local child abuse reporting laws and policies, as well as to ignorance at the school district level about existing laws and regulations addressing roles and responsibilities for preventing abuse.
More than two years have passes since that first request, and incidences of child sexual abuse at schools have not abated.
It is in that bipartisan spirit that I request we now schedule hearings on sexual misconduct and abuse of students by school personnel and other adults in positions of trust.
This is a first step in ensuring that Congress is examining all federal approaches that can protect children from sex abuse and harassment in schools and other settings outside their homes.

Chairman Kline failed to hold any hearings as requested … but he did hold a hearing on whether college football players could unionize.

Faced with a Chairman Kline’s gavel focused on other issues, George Miller, the Ranking Member, wrote a letter to the FBI requesting a formal investigation over what he terms “alarming allegations and high-profile reports of sexual abuse.”
I write today to respectfully request that you fully investigate USA Swimming’s handling of both past and present cases of child sexual abuse,” Representative Miller started his letter to FBI Director James B. Comey, dated July 9th, 2014.
Miller’s letter says that he and his staff have conducted interviews of their own, including victims of sexual abuse, attorneys, former USA Swimming officials, and “a USA Swimming-commissioned expert who has been conducting an independent evaluation of USA Swimming’s Safe Sport program.”

Representative Miller’s letter is alarming … citing numerous instances of claims of abuse all across America … from Alaska to Massachusetts … but it is solely focused on the sport of competitive swimming … where currently 106 coaches now make up the list of coaches permanently banned by USA Swimming — but these individuals can still work at private clubs.
The increasingly widespread reports and allegations of abuse by swim coaches, as well as questions about the responsiveness of USA Swimming to the issue, has alarmed parents (as well as swimmers).

It is clear that Congress needs to exercise its oversight as required by Amateur Sports Act of 1978 concerning sexual abuse claims, and this includes abuse in other youth programs.

The sad thing is that George Miller is retiring once this term ends … and as long as the media does not prod Chairman Kline to take action; his past performance indicates that he will not.

Of course the voters could do something about that … by taking away the gavel from Chairman Kline with a vote for Mike Obermueller on November 4th.

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