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On Thursday, within hours of a New York Times report detailing allegations of sexual harassment against producer Harvey Weinstein, Senate Democrats began giving away some of the thousands of dollars in political donations that Weinstein, a prolific donor, gave them over the years.
On Friday, the Republican National Committee went on the attack and sought to tie these Democrats to Weinstein, their longtime patron. In an email sent out, the RNC published a chart detailing “Harvey’s Dirty Democratic Donations” and pointed out which members of Congress and which party campaign committees had not yet either returned or given away Weinstein’s money.
“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,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in the email. “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.”
In the 2016 election cycle, Weinstein gave two donations to the Democratic National Committee’s political action committee totaling more than $30,000. The DNC provided a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday afternoon saying it will donate the money to EMILY’s List, Emerge America and Higher Heights.
“The allegations in the New York Times report are deeply troubling,” DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said. “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.”
The statement added: “The DNC will donate over $30,000 in contributions from Weinstein to EMILY’s List, Emerge America and Higher Heights 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.”
The Times reported Friday that New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is giving back $14,200 in donations he received from Weinstein. Schumer joins a list of senators, including Patrick Leahy, Martin Heinrich, Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal and Corey Booker, who have returned money from Weinstein or donated it.
Weinstein was an impactful supporter of both Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, but neither has said anything publicly about the disgraced filmmaker in the wake of the Times report. An email to Clinton’s post-campaign spokesman was not returned.
While it’s logical for the RNC to seek to hit Democrats on Weinstein, it’s not clear whether it will be a viable strategy, considering that the candidates — like the general public — were likely unaware of the allegations against Weinstein at the time the donations were accepted. Blaming politicians for the sins of their donors can also backfire and invite more scrutiny on one’s own donors.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders largely sidestepped an opportunity to bash Democrats during a press briefing Friday, saying that it’s up to them to decide whether they want to return Weinstein’s money. “That’s certainly not a decision for us to make,” she said.
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