Partisans, Wielding Money, Begin Seeking to Exploit Harassment Claims

And a nonprofit group founded by the Democratic activist David Brock, which people familiar with the arrangements say secretly spent $200,000 on an unsuccessful effort to bring forward accusations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Trump before Election Day, is considering creating a fund to encourage victims to bring forward similar claims against Republican politicians.

Activists on the right are also involved. In November, the Trump-backing social media agitator Mike Cernovich offered to pay $10,000 for details of any congressional sexual harassment settlements, and said on Twitter that he would cover the expenses of “any VICTIM of a Congressman who wants to come forward to tell her story.” Shortly before posting that offer, a source provided Mr. Cernovich with a copy of a sexual harassment settlement that led in December to the resignation of Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, until then the longest-serving member of the House.

And Mr. Burkman, who has suggested that Russian hit men killed a young Democratic National Committee aide during the 2016 election, emerged in October to offer his services to women accusing Mr. Weinstein of sexual misconduct. He had never handled a sexual harassment matter before.

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Those pushing the sexual harassment claims say they are just trying to level a playing field that has long favored powerful men, discouraging their victims from coming forward, and silencing many who do using confidential settlements.

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Mike Cernovich, a conservative social media agitator, has offered money to anyone with details of sexual harassment settlements with members of Congress.

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Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

“You got to sweeten the pot a little bit,” Mr. Cernovich said. A lawyer by training, he said he was shocked that the person who gave him the Conyers documents declined his offer to pay for them.

But, he said, “if somebody had a settlement like Conyers, I would gladly, gladly pay for that.”

Money could have costs.

“If you’re getting money from someone who has an ax to grind against the person you’re accusing of unlawful activity, that most certainly opens the door to a line of questioning that very well could undermine the veracity of your client’s story,” said Douglas H. Wigdor, a leading New York employment…

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