Democrats' Weinstein Problem Isn't Limited to Weinstein

10/13/2017 04:39 pm ET
Hillary Clinton with Harvey Weinstein at a 2012 gala for Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Above: Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for TIME
Hillary Clinton with Harvey Weinstein at a 2012 gala for Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

By Naomi LaChance, TYT Investigates

As Democratic lawmakers pledge to give away political donations they received from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of rape and serial sexual assault, TYT Investigates has identified other ties that these same Democrats have with people and institutions accused of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment.

A report in The New York Times, followed by a report in The New Yorker, outlined instances of violence, calculated coercion, predatory behavior, and manipulation by Weinstein. Accusers include Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, and Ashley Judd. Weinstein was fired from the Weinstein Company on Sunday.

In response, some Democrats have said they will donate the money he gave them to charity. The move was widely interpreted as a symbolic gesture meant to separate themselves from an alleged rapist, and some explicitly condemned Weinstein.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will donate $14,200 to several women’s charities. Another senator, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), said she will give $11,800 to RAINN, an anti-sexual-assault group. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will donate $2,700 to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, his spokesperson told TYT Investigates. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) has reportedly given $2,190 to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she will donate $5,000 to a domestic violence nonprofit, Casa Myrna. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) gave$5,400 contribution to New Mexico nonprofit Community Against Violence. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.),Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.), and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) have also reportedly said that they will donate Weinstein’s campaign contributions to women’s charities.

But a TYT analysis of campaign finance data shows that many of these same Democrats’ other top donors have also been embroiled in sexual harassment scandals. Donating Weinstein’s money won’t sanitize these Democrats’ money.

In Schumer’s and Gillibrand’s cases, Weinstein is not the only accused sexual assailant to have supported their campaigns. The two also took campaign donations from Donald Trump, who was caught on a 2005 tape bragging about sexual assault. Gillibrand received $4,800 from Trump during her 2010 Senate campaign. Schumer received $8,900 in contributions from Trump between 1996 and 2009.  The lawmakers did not return TYT’s request for comment, and did not say whether they intend to donate Trump’s donations.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) said this week it will donate at least $30,000, a small portion of Weinstein’s contributions, to groups focused on electing Democratic women. One of the groups, EMILY’s List, has raised money for Warren, Harris, and Gillibrand. The DNC will also donate to Emerge America and Higher Heights.

“The allegations in the New York Times report are deeply troubling,” A DNC spokesperson told TYT Investigates via email. “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.”

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promised to donate the $1.4 million she received from Weinstein to charity. “I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein,” she said.

The DNC is tied to many powerful men who have come under fire for sexual harassment claims. The DNC did not have comment on this matter.

President Bill Clinton has been accused of rape, groping, and propositioning employees. Vice President Al Gore was accused in 2010 of a sexual assault. Vice President Joe Biden was criticized for being “handsy” with women. He spokeearlier in the week on sexual harassment and made no comment on Weinstein, but in a speech on Thursday about sexual assault, Biden called Weinstein’s behavior “disgusting and immoral.”

Last year, when a delegate for Bernie Sanders said she was sexually assaulted at the DNC by another delegate, she saidthat the DNC had no procedure to deal with the incident.

Reviewing campaign finance filings, TYT Investigates identified multiple companies that have been major donors to the same Democrats who received Weinstein donations and have also been accused of enabling systemic workplace sexual harassment. No one has demanded that the lawmakers return funds from all of these organizations. Rather, their connections to these organizations serve as a reminder: It’s not just Weinstein, or Hollywood. Workplaces frequently and efficiently work to discredit, silence, and intimidate women who come forward with accusations.

While donations do not always imply quid pro quo, International Business Times found that Weinstein’s lawyer gave Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. $10,000 after he declined to bring sexual assault charges against Weinstein. Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a model, accused him of groping her. After reporting the incident to police, she wore a wire and recorded him asking her to join him in his hotel room while he showered; she said no repeatedly.

“We had the evidence,” the police source involved in the operation told The New Yorker. “It’s a case that made me angrier than I thought possible, and I have been on the force a long time.”

Schumer and Gillibrand have taken sizable donations from employees at banks Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, as well as from their PACs. Both companies faced accusations of sexual harassment. These contributions are from individual employees, and the companies’ PACs. But lawsuits suggest systemic predatory treatment of women.

In 2014, JPMorgan paid $1.45 million to settle a lawsuit alleging a “sexually hostile work environment” at offices in Ohio. The money was divided among 16 women.

In a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, female employees reported unequal pay and a “boys club” atmosphere. One woman, Cristina Chen-Oster, said that she was sexually assaulted by a colleague. After she reported the event to her supervisor, she said she experienced “increased hostility and marginalization” at work.

Cory Booker, who reportedly is giving $7,800 from Weinstein to the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, received major contributions from employees at Goldman Sachs.

Schumer took contributions from employees at Citigroup. Last year, a woman sued the financial firm, alleging that “exclusion from her business functionality resulted in loss of opportunity and is a result of Citi’s ‘boys’ club’ policies and practices which underlie a culture of gender discrimination.”

Leahy and Franken have taken significant funds from employees at Microsoft, which has also been hit with lawsuits alleging sexual discrimination and harassment.

Schumer, Gillibrand, and Booker all received major backing from employees at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a law firm that came under fire last year for its handling of a sexual harassment probe at Fox News regarding claims against Roger Ailes. “It could be argued that the firm wrapped up its investigation prematurely, limiting the scope,” Bruce Schaeffer, lawyer for former Fox News anchor Laurie Dhue, said.

Harris took top campaign donations from employees at 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, which came under fire last year for sexual harassment claims against Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.

Harris also took campaign donations from employees at Alphabet, Google’s parent company; Google has been criticizedrepeatedly about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Warren, Franken, and Heinrich have received contributions from employees at higher education institutions that have been accused of systemic sexual assault.

Heinrich took money from employees at the University of New Mexico, where in 2016 a DOJ investigation found frequent mishandling of sexual violence cases.

University of California employees have given significant funds to Franken, Harris, and Warren. There, sexual violence or misconduct was alleged involving more than 100 employees, and records showed instances of widespread harassment, particularly professors preying on students. Franken has also taken top contributions from employees at the University of Minnesota, where the Minnesota Daily identified “a culture that dismissed sexual assault.”

Franken and Warren have also taken significant amounts of money from employees at Harvard University, which has been hit with several sexual harassment claims recently. In a 2016 lawsuit, a woman said that as an undergraduate she was forced to live in the same dorm as her abuser; her requests for institutional help went unanswered. Harvard has seen a rise in reported rapes. A 2014 federal lawsuit led the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to conclude that Harvard Law School was more sympathetic to those accused of sexual harassment than those coming forward with claims at the school.

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