by Scott Bixby · October 5, 2017
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.
Weinstein also donated $5,400 to the re-election campaign of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and gave a total of $30,858.13 to the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Weinstein also contributed $10,000 to the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Votes PAC.
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.
Leahy is the first to announce that he would be giving his Weinstein donation away. The Senator’s longtime campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer could not specify the nature of the charity, noting that Leahy is currently traveling. The Daily Beast has reached out to others who have received contributions from Weinstein, but did not immediately hear back on whether those donations would be returned or redirected to charity.
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.
The Daily Beast · by Scott Bixby · October 5, 2017