Democrats rush to cut ties with Harvey Weinstein
Democrats are rushing to distance themselves from film producer Harvey Weinstein after a bombshell New York Times story revealed allegations that the mega-donor spent decades sexually harassing the women he worked with.
Nearly a dozen Democratic senators — including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and several potential 2020 presidential contenders — are pledging to donate the contributions they’ve received from Weinstein over the years to nonprofit groups advocating for women who have been the victims of sexual abuse.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) will give the money it received from Weinstein in the most recent campaign cycle to a trio of women’s groups. However, the DNC quickly came under fire for only donating a fraction of what it had received from Weinstein over the years, and for giving the money to political organizations rather than those that support victimized women.
Meanwhile, the Democratic campaign committees in Washington are working with lawmakers and their campaigns to assess how much Weinstein — whose donations date back to the early 1990s — might have given to their candidates and organizations.
Weinstein’s association with the Democratic Party runs deep. He has long been one of the most prominent figures on the donor circuit that runs through Hollywood.
Many Democrats expressed disgust that Weinstein would open the party up to the same attacks they’ve levied against President Trump, whose “Access Hollywood” tape broke almost a year ago.
“The difference between Trump, Bill Cosby and Weinstein — none,” said Bob Mulholland, a Democratic National Committee member from California.
The Democratic disavowal of Weinstein began quickly after the publication of the Times story.
Schumer said he would give $14,200 received over the course of several campaign cycles to women’s groups, his office told The Hill.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will donate the $5,000 she got from Weinstein to a Boston nonprofit group called Casa Myrna, which aids victims of domestic violence. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will give $7,800 to the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is returning the most money — $19,600 given to both his campaign and a supporting super PAC — to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is giving $11,800 — none of which was received in the most recent cycle — to RAINN, the nation’s largest group assisting victims of sexual violence.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are among other lawmakers donating Weinstein’s contributions to women’s groups.
The amount of money the lawmakers received from Weinstein pales in comparison to what he has given to the DNC and the Democratic Senate and House campaign arms.
Weinstein has given about a quarter of a million dollars to the DNC over the years, with about $30,000 of that coming in the latest cycle. The DNC is giving the $30,000 to EMILY’s List, which supports women candidates that support abortion rights, Emerge America, which recruits and trains Democratic women for office, and Higher Heights, which supports black women running for office.
“The allegations in the New York Times report are deeply troubling,” DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa told The Hill. “The Democratic Party condemns all forms of sexual harassment and assault. We hope that Republicans will do the same as we mark one year since the release of a tape showing President Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women followed by more than a dozen women who came forward to detail similar experiences of assault and harassment.”
Republicans slammed the DNC for not giving away what it had received from Weinstein in earlier election cycles, and for donating the money to groups that support Democratic candidates.
Wow. DNC took $296,290 from Harvey Weinstein while he was sexually assaulting women. They’re keeping $266,290 and giving rest to Dem groups. https://t.co/ahDBNpFPGK
— Michael Ahrens (@michael_ahrens) October 6, 2017
Other groups were grappling with what to do about money they’d received years earlier.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has received about $200,000 from Weinstein, but none of that was given in the last 15 years. Donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee totaled over $20,000, with the most recent cash coming in 2013. Neither group commented to The Hill about their plans for that money.
But Weinstein’s influence went beyond his wallet. He was a top draw at Democratic fundraisers for former President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, where tickets could run upwards of $35,000.
In 2015, Weinstein and his wife, Georgina Chapman, a fashion designer, hosted a fundraiser for Clinton in New York City, along with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
Weinstein had also teamed up with Wintour for at least two fundraisers for Obama in 2012, where a top-flight roster of liberal donors paid $35,800 to co-host and individuals paid $10,000 each to get in.
Spokespeople for Obama and Clinton did not respond to requests for comment.
Republicans hammered Democrats for the Weinstein connection, eagerly highlighting those who have yet to return funds he’s given dating back to 1993.
“During three-decades worth of sexual harassment allegations, Harvey Weinstein lined the pockets of Democrats to the tune of three quarters of a million dollars,” said Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “If Democrats and the DNC truly stand up for women like they say they do, then returning this dirty money should be a no brainer.”
Democrats were in no mood to hear that from Republicans, pointing to Trump’s own controversies and those at Fox News, where former chairman Roger Ailes and former anchor Bill O’Reilly were forced out amid sexual harassment accusations.
“The entire Republican Party, from the grass roots to the establishment, stayed with Donald Trump after they’d been made aware about what he said on the “Access Hollywood” tape,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic consultant. “They all went on Bill O’Reilly and kissed Roger Ailes’ ring. I don’t want to hear from Republicans because they don’t have a leg to stand on here.”
Still, Democrats were doing their own soul searching about whether they had turned a blind eye toward Weinstein’s behavior, which was long the subject of rumors in Hollywood.
“There’s no question that for a long time Harvey was a mover and shaker and presence around fundraising structure of the party at a high level, he brought star wattage,” said one Democratic strategist.
“When the rumors are out there, whether about Harvey or someone else, all too many times they’ve turned out to be true. We need to do a better job of being true to our values and looking at the full picture, not just what someone can do for our movement.”