In the wake of allegations of attempted sexual assault by a powerful Austin lobbyist, one legislator has decided to ban lobbyists from his office entirely. State Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) posted a notice following the accusations stating in bold, underlined, and caps, “No lobbyists permitted in this office”.
The notice says constituents are welcome, but if lobbyists would like to speak to the representative they can call or email the office or find him on the House floor. The notice also says DPS will be called on violators.
Jetton’s ban comes after DPS confirmed that it is investigating allegations that Richard Dennis, a lobbyist for Hillco Partners, used a date rape drug on a female legislative staffer during a meeting he had with her. Hillco is a powerful lobbying firm that receivers taxpayer dollars from various government entities.
“As many of you are now aware, a lobbyist in Austin was recently accused of drugging and attempting to assault a female staffer,” Jetton said in a Facebook post. “These actions are evil and must not be tolerated. Please know that I (or my Chief of Staff Tori Macfarlan) am always available if anyone needs to talk about issues like these. I join my colleagues in standing with the women in the Texas Capitol.”
Reform advocates have long decried a toxic culture of sexual harassment and abuse of power in the Texas Capitol, with some women in the Capitol reportedly even keeping up a sordid spreadsheet of all the legislators who allegedly harassed and abused women.
The ban was almost immediately criticized by Scott Braddock, Editor of the “Quorum Report”, a capitol insider newsletter. “Respect to Rep @JaceyJetton, who is a friend,” Tweeted Braddock, “but I’ve heard from several Texas Capitol women this morning who say this will do *nothing* to fix a toxic culture in the building but it does make it harder for women in the lobby trying to earn a living.”
Jetton defended his ban as one step he can take to protect his staff from the toxic culture of the Capitol. “There is absolutely a toxic culture in the building surrounding these issues,” he said. “This action is just one step I can take to protect my staff, one of the only things I can control. I encourage the lobby community to self-police their colleagues as well.”
“The blanket approach to protecting my staff is to ban lobbyists from my office,” Jetton said in another Tweet. “I will be available to lobbyists as they need to speak with me. This is just one piece in a larger conversation about combatting harassment but protecting my staff is an essential step.”