Ex-aide: Franks offered $5M to carry his child
WASHINGTON - A former aide to Republican Rep. Trent Franks has told the Associated Press the congressman repeatedly pressed her to carry his child, at one point offering her $5 million to act as a surrogate mother.
The eight-term lawmaker abruptly resigned Friday, bowing to an ultimatum from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Ryan told Franks that he would refer the allegations to the Ethics Committee and urged him to step aside.
The former staffer said the congressman at least four times asked if she’d be willing to act as a surrogate in exchange for money. Franks, in his statement announcing his resignation, said he and his wife, who have struggled with infertility, have twins who were carried through surrogacy.
The former aide said the conversations took place in private, sometimes in the congressman’s car, and that she repeatedly told him she wasn’t interested. She said she never filed a formal complaint because until recently she didn’t know where to go, but that his behavior had made her feel uncomfortable.
The Associated Press verified the identity of the staffer and confirmed that she worked in Franks’ office. She asked that her name be withheld out of concern for her privacy.
“During my time there, I was asked a few times to look over a ‘contract’ to carry his child, and if I would conceive his child, I would be given $5 million,” she said, adding that she refused to look over the contract and has never seen a copy.
The woman said the requests shocked her, and made her feel afraid that if she didn’t agree, she would face professional consequences. She said she spoke to another aide in the office, who had also been approached about surrogacy.
The aide cited the surrogacy requests as “a main reason” for leaving the office, adding that she felt retaliated against after turning down the congressman, ignored by Franks and not given many assignments.
A spokesman for Franks would not comment on whether the congressman made the offers.
Franks, a staunch conservative, said in his statement Thursday that he never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have sexual contact with any member of his House staff.
Franks, 60, said he had become familiar with the surrogacy process in recent years and “became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.”
He said he regrets that his “discussion of this option and process in the workplace” with two female staffers made them feel uncomfortable.
Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, said she is the one who reported Franks’ conduct to the speaker’s office. Lafferty told AP that the former aide came to her about a year ago and told her about the surrogacy requests. Lafferty said she contacted Ryan’s office last month, after the staffer agreed to discuss the incident with leadership.
“I was approached last year about the situation, she came to me wanting some advice about how to handle this. She came to me shaking and sobbing, and she shared a story that I think is horrific, a powerful man hiring young women, procuring staff, to potentially surrogate children for him,” Lafferty said. “I accompanied (the former aide) to the meeting in the speaker’s office where she said Congressman Trent Franks offered her $5 million if she conceived him a child.”
Franks, an abortion opponent, has a net worth of nearly $33 million, making him one of the wealthier members of Congress.
He previously served in the Arizona Legislature and founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, an organization associated with Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family.”