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Here's what we know about allegations against Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers. Detroit Free Press staff

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The allegations of sexual misconduct surrounding U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, could spell trouble for Democrats heading into next year's elections.

Joe DiSano, a Michigan-based Democratic political consultant, said if Conyers decides to try and ride out the scandal, he will become a liability for the party's hopes of regaining a majority in Congress.

“This is a real threat to Democrats. He shouldn’t be a speed bump on the way to a Democratic majority,” DiSano said. “And he shouldn’t hurt other Democrats. Give him his gold watch and send him on his way.”

And that goes for any other politicians who could face allegations of sexual impropriety, he said.

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“Any Democrat involved in this type of sordid nonsense and knows their name is going to come up, they should just retire,” DiSano said. “That goes for John Conyers and anyone else.”

DiSano's comments came as Democrats nationwide were struggling with how to react to the controversy involving Conyers, a civil rights legend and the longest-serving active member of Congress. 

While other Democrats have stopped short of demanding his resignation, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat and a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told CNN Wednesday that Conyers should step down as the ranking Democrat of the Judiciary Committee while he is under investigation. 

"If he defends himself and says and shows there is nothing there, then he could come back," Meeks said. 

Other Democrats, who spoke on the condition they not be named, said talks are underway to figure out a way to gently nudge Conyers out of Congress before he becomes a liability in the 2018 election.

"Here we are, poised to have a big year in 2018 and we get this," said one source with ties to the Democratic Party. "He needs to go because he can't be a distraction this election cycle."

Conyers on Tuesday denied a Buzzfeed report stating he sexually harassed an employee who received a settlement of more than $27,000 in 2015 from his office funds. Later in the day, the House Ethics Committee announced it had opened an investigation into the allegation.

The former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said he wasn't denying the settlement, but that "my office resolved the allegations — with an express denial of liability — in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation."

"I have long been and continue to be a fierce advocate for equality in the workplace and I fully support the rights of employees who believe they have been harassed or discriminated against to assert claims against their employers," Conyers said. "(But) it is important to recognize that the mere making of an allegation does not mean it is true. The process must be fair to both the employee and the accused."

The bombshell accusation was leveled at Conyers late Monday, as Buzzfeed also reported that it had affidavits filed by three other former employees who said they saw the longest-serving active member of Congress and civil rights legend repeatedly make sexual overtures to female women staffers, requesting sexual favors and touching them. 

Late Tuesday afternoon, the House Ethics Committee issued a statement saying it was aware of allegations not only that Conyers may have engaged in sexual harassment but also age discrimination and misuse of government resources and would investigate. It did not detail any basis for the additional allegations.

The Free Press also learned Tuesday that another former employee of Conyers' hired in 2015 initiated a lawsuit against him in federal court in Washington, D.C. this  year alleging harassment, saying he made "sexual advances in the form of inappropriate comments and touches."

The staffer dropped the lawsuit almost immediately, however, after a judge refused to seal the case — which she had asked the court to do to protect someone known for his "tireless civil rights work,"  saying it was not her intent to "irreparably harm" Conyers.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, on Tuesday called the allegations against Conyers "deeply disturbing" and called for a "transparent, fair and thorough investigation" by the Ethics Committee. She also called for action on legislation to change how claims are handled to prohibit non-disclosure agreements, saying, "Everyone deserves to work in an environment that is free from harassment and hostility."

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York — the second-ranking Democrat behind Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee — called the allegations "extremely serious and deeply troubling," adding that there "can be no tolerance for behavior that subjects women to the kind of conduct alleged."

The accusations against Conyers came as the political, media and entertainment worlds have been rocked by accusations of sexual harassment by powerful, influential men.

Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or spangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.  

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