Sen. Jeff Kruse must resign.
If he won’t, the Oregon Senate must expel him, and then do some soul-searching about why it let his abuse of women at the Capitol go on so long.
An independent investigation revealed Tuesday that the Roseburg Republican’s abuse went far beyond the two legislators who publicly accused him of inappropriate touching and close contact. Employment attorney Dian Rubanoff detailed misconduct against numerous other women, including other lawmakers and two law students who had worked for him. Some said they never complained because they feared for their careers.
The abuse included repeated grabbing and tight hugging, cupping buttocks, touching his head to the woman’s, running his fingers over the bottoms of breasts and more. While this is not in the category of the Harvey Weinstein abuses that launched the #MeToo movement, it is totally inappropriate and unacceptable.
Kruse’s response to the investigator made it abundantly clear that he just doesn’t get it. He didn’t deny the allegations, even confirming some while saying he didn’t remember others. But he described such behavior as “instinctual” and said “It’s not easy to change when you have been doing something for 67 years.” After he was warned by legislative leadership, his behavior reportedly escalated rather than abated.
Also troubling is the fact that his behavior appears to have been widely known, according to the investigation, yet went unchecked for years, even after he’d been given a warning.
More recently, Kruse sent letters to his two public accusers in January, according to The Oregonian, in which he apologized for making them uncomfortable, although he still disagreed with many of the allegations. He said he would try to change. On Wednesday, he told The News-Review in Roseburg that he would not resign and is preparing a rebuttal to Rubanoff’s report.
The Senate Conduct Committee has scheduled a Feb. 22 public hearing on Rubanoff’s report and could recommend that the full Senate reprimand, censure or expel Kruse. A two-thirds vote in the Senate would be required to discipline the senator, meaning at least three Republican votes would be needed even if all Democrats concurred. The vote should be unanimous, and be followed by a serious study of why the legislators’ response was so slow and how to create a healthy atmosphere and a structure for complaints that would preclude a repeat.