The head of a prominent conservative group was present last week when a woman who has accused Rep. Trent Franks of asking her to be a surrogate for his child in exchange for $5 million detailed her allegations to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s staff.
Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, told CNN that the accuser – a former aide whom she did not name – said that she was asked to look over a contract to carry Franks’ child. If she conceived his child, she would be given $5 million, according to Lafferty.
Franks, an Arizona Republican, announced Thursday that he planned to resign January 31, after the House Ethics Committee said that it would investigate Franks to see if he had taken part in “conduct that constitutes sexual harassment and/or retaliation for opposing sexual harassment.” On Friday, Franks said his resignation would take effect immediately.
Lafferty first learned about the woman’s allegations last year. She was connected with the woman through a mutual friend, she said, who felt that she could help provide counsel. At the time, she was not ready to come forward but was simply seeking advice, Lafferty said about the accuser. The accuser recently decided to come forward, got in touch with Lafferty again, and Lafferty set up the meeting last week with the speaker’s office. Ryan did not attend, Lafferty said.
“I did attend the meeting in the speaker’s office with the young lady,” Lafferty said. “Her story has remained consistent in every time she has discussed it.”
Lafferty said that the interaction in the office made her angry.
“I was angry that somebody who purports to be a conservative and Christian does such a terrible thing,” she told CNN. “Morally it just made me angry he would do something like this.”
Because Franks resigned, he no longer has a press office. Attempts to seek comment through the House Office of the Clerk were unsuccessful. The speaker’s office declined to comment.
The Associated Press first reported news of the alleged $5 million offer.
“Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, DC due to an ongoing ailment,” Franks said in a statement Friday. “After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today, December 8, 2017.”
A statement on Thursday from the congressman said he recognized that he made staffers uncomfortable when discussing surrogacy, but cited concerns over a “fair” ethics investigation in “the midst of this current cultural and media climate.”
“I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress,” his statement Thursday said.
CNN’s Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.