In June, freshman Senator Mona Das claimed there were racist, sexist, and hateful comments made during closed-door meetings of the Senate Democratic caucus. The accusation prompted the launch of a formal inquiry, the findings of which were released last week.
The review found no evidence that these comments were made by members of the caucus, and Senate Republican caucus Chair Randi Becker is looking for consequences for Das.
The Morning Wire: Keeping you informed on Washington politics, policy, and political economy
Das’s comments took place at a Kent Chamber of Commerce forum at the beginning of summer. During the conversation, Das described closed-door meetings with the Senate Democratic caucus as full of “hate, misogyny, racism, and sexism.”
“After they close that door, that’s when it gets real,” she said. “That’s when my 28 colleagues got real. And that’s when I heard hate, misogyny and racism and sexism from people you would not expect.”
After the comments were originally reported in the Kent Reporter, Sen. Das released a statement clarifying that the remarks she was referring to were not overtly racist or sexist. Rather, she was referencing coded language and terms such as “those people” that she heard frequently.
According to the formal inquiry, “every member of the Democratic Caucus who was interviewed for this inquiry firmly denied every hearing sexist or racist statements by their colleagues in caucus.” The report does note that some of the members agreed that for specific pieces of legislation, a few members “conveyed limited interest in discussing potential disparate impacts on communities of color.”
Following the release of the report, Senate Republican caucus Chair Randi Becker sent a letter to Senator John McCoy, who chairs the Facilities and Operations Committee, calling for a discussion on the consequences Das should face.
From the letter:
“Now that our investigator has determined that Sen. Das made false allegations of demeaning and derogatory behavior by members of the Senate, it is now up to the Facilities and Operations Committee to decide what the consequences should be for Sen. Das.”
Becker’s letter highlights a portion of the Senate Policy on Appropriate Workplace Conduct and argues that Das violates the policy.
“‘Other Offensive Conduct
No Senator or employee shall engage in any behavior that a reasonable person would find to be …demeaning or derogatory toward another…’
If we are to take our Appropriate Workplace Conduct Policy seriously, we – as the committee that oversees the conduct of the Senate – must acknowledge that a senator falsely accusing colleagues of racist and sexist behavior is demeaning and derogatory and in violation of the policy.”
Becker recommends four consequences to be considered by the committee including requiring Das to reimburse the public funds that were required for the investigation, a public apology to all members accused, a written reprimand from the F&O Committee, and a motion of formal censure by the entire Senate.
The Senate report also offers observations on institutional bias. Members of color that were interviewed described varying views of the unconscious and implicit bias problem within the caucus.
Sen. Das referenced this bias in a written statement after the inquiry was released.
“Institutional racism affects the lives of people throughout our state through policies, laws and the actions of others,” said Das.
“While this bias is often unconscious and unintentional, it still has a profound effect on people who have been historically marginalized, and it should be taken seriously.”