SEX, LIES, & REFUNDS

Senate Democrats Pledge to Give Tainted Harvey Weinstein Donations to Charity

The filmmaker stands accused of serial sexual harassment. Now his political beneficiaries are scrambling.

Representatives for multiple Democratic senators said on Thursday that they intend to donate thousands of dollars given to their campaigns by scandal-ridden film producer Harvey Weinstein to charity.

The donations came just hours after a bombshell New York Times story published on Thursday afternoon alleging that Weinstein had sexually harassed employees and actresses for decades. In response to the articles allegations that Weinstein encouraged female employees to give him massages and watch him bathe naked, beneficiaries of the producer’s political largesse have begun distancing themselves from a powerful former benefactor.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), one of nearly a half-dozen Democratic politicians and liberal political groups who have benefitted from Weinstein’s generosity in the most recent campaign cycle, is the first to announce that he would give away $5,600 donated by Weinstein. The senator’s longtime campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer told The Daily Beast that Leahy is donating Weinstein's contributions to the Change the Story Initiative at the Women’s Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation.

Soon after, a spokesperson for Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) told The Daily Beast that he, too, would be donating the value of Weinstein’s past contributions to charity.

“As soon as Senator Heinrich learned of these allegations, he donated the $5,400 contribution to Community Against Violence, a non-profit organization in New Mexico,” Marsha Garcia, communications director for Heinrich’s re-election campaign, told The Daily Beast.

An aide to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told The Daily Beast that, like Leahy and Heinrich, the $5,400 he received in campaign contributions from Weinstein will be donated to a charity benefiting women.

“He will be donating the full amount of Mr. Weinstein’s contribution to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence,” said communications director Maria McElwain.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office told the Daily Beast that he would be “donating all of the contributions [from Weinstein] to several charities supporting women.” The total amount Weinstein gave to Schumer was $14,200, his office noted.

The Democratic National Committee, to which Weinstein contributed a total of $30,858.13 in 2016, told The Daily Beast that the allegations are “deeply troubling” and that it will also donate Weinstein’s contributions from the most recent cycle to various women-focused political action committees—and took a swipe against President Donald Trump in the process.

“The DNC will donate over $30,000 in contributions from Weinstein to EMILY’s List, Emerge America and Higher Heights,” DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa told The Daily Beast, “because what we need is more women in power, not men like Trump who continue to show us that they lack respect for more than half of America.”

Weinstein also contributed $10,000 to the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Votes PAC, which did not respond to a request for comment regarding whether those donations would be returned or redirected to charity.

The filmmaker reached the apex of Hollywood power by paying the way for hugely successful motion pictures—and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to political candidates and causes.

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In a rambling statement penned in response to the Times report, in which he quoted Jay Z and highlighted his philanthropic work on behalf of female directors, Weinstein vowed to “channel that anger” with more political work, specifically targeting gun control.

“I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention,” Weinstein wrote. “I hope [National Rifle Association executive vice president] Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah.”

Weinstein also noted that “I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party.”

Leahy’s pledge to donate Weinstein’s contribution to charity is the latest instance where a political donor’s beneficiary has moved to distance themselves from a former backer. In 2007, Hillary Clinton returned $850,000 to donors who had been recruited by bundler Norman Hsu, who was later convicted of running a pyramid scheme. More recently, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) respectively returned and donated thousands of dollars their campaigns had received from Earl Holt III, the leader of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens.