“For too long, the culture in Washington has accepted entirely unacceptable behavior,” . “That needs to change — period.” (Novemeber 2017) Elizabeth Esty
“You better fucking reply to me or I will fucking kill you,” Tony Baker (Esty Chief of Staff) said in the May 5, 2016, recording left for Anna Kain, a former Esty aide Baker had once dated.
According to e-mail optained by the Washington Post, the Congresswomen found out about the episode within a week. She also spoke to Kain on May 11, emails show; Kain said she provided detailed allegations that Baker had punched, berated and sexually harassed her in Esty’s Capitol Hill office throughout 2014, while she worked as Esty’s senior adviser.
Kain and Baker met in Esty’s office following her 2012 election. They dated casually in 2013 before being promoted to senior adviser and chief of staff, respectively, in early 2014.
Baker did not leave for three months. By his last day on Aug. 12, according to documents Esty provided to The Post, he and Esty had co-written a positive recommendation letter he could use in a job search and signed a legal document preventing her from disparaging him or discussing why he left. Baker went on to work for Sandy Hook Promise, the gun-control group created after the 2012 shooting in Esty’s district. He was dismissed from the group this week after The Post contacted him.
Tony Baker received five thousand dollars in severance pay.
According to Kain’s petition for a restraining order, Baker punched her in the back and “repeatedly screamed” at her in Esty’s office while threatening to retaliate professionally if she reported his behavior. She did not tell Esty or the House Ethics Committee out of fear for her safety, her petition stated.
Kain told The Post that she was so anxious about imperiling her boss’s chance of reelection that she removed her cellphone from the House’s WiFi network so that she could privately look up how to report misconduct to the Ethics Committee.
“I was 24 and doing a job that I believed in for an institution I was proud to be a part of,” Kain said Thursday in an interview. “But I was being severely abused and had nowhere to turn. Nobody talked about things like this. I was suffering and thought it was weakness.”
On May 5, 2016, Baker called Kain approximately 50 times and said he would “find her” and “kill her,” she alleged in the petition.
Ricci disputed that Baker punched Kain but did not challenge her other allegations. He said that Baker was too intoxicated at the time to remember leaving the message and that he offered to resign after Esty learned what had happened. The congresswoman said Baker never offered his resignation.
Baker was barred from working out of Esty’s Capitol Hill office starting on July 24, 2016, according to the separation agreement, which required Esty to serve as a reference in his job search outside of Washington. A draft letter of recommendation from Esty that was attached to the agreement praised his “considerable skills.”
Baker accompanied the congresswoman to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 25 to 28 before sending a departing email to colleagues on Aug. 12.
A spokeswoman for Sandy Hook Promise declined to comment on Baker’s departure this week.
In retrospect, Esty said she dealt with the situation poorly. She said she plans to reimburse the U.S. Treasury for what she described as the roughly $5,000 Baker received in severance. She also plans to improve how she runs her office.
“What I did was not good enough and it didn’t protect [my staff] enough,” Esty said Monday in an interview at her home in Cheshire, Conn. “ . . . I’m hopeful now with this conversation and this coming out that I’ll be able to be much more direct and help other people in Congress understand the risks they are placing their staff at when they don’t think they are.”
Esty said she plans to advocate for greater accountability in how congressional offices are managed.