Cory Booker rejects donations from disgraced Hollywood mogul Weinstein
WASHINGTON — Cory Booker, New Jersey's junior U.S. senator and a possible presidential contender, is among Democrats who are donating to charity campaign donations they've received from disgraced Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein.
Weinstein and his family have given more than $1.4 million in political contributions since the 1992 election cycle, virtually all of it to Democratic lawmakers, candidates and their allies, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The party's effort to separate itself from the 65-year-old film executive came after The New York Times reported that he settled sexual harassment lawsuits with at least eight women.
Weinstein's contributions are tiny compared to those who donate tens of millions of dollars during a two-year election cycle, easily leaving him out of the top 100 funders, the center's figures show. But he's been a fixture among Democratic supporters and close to party luminaries for decades, making the revelations especially embarrassing for a party that touts itself as pushing progressive policies for women.
The biggest beneficiary of funds from Weinstein and his family was the Democratic National Committee, which received about $800,000 in several of its accounts, according to the center, which analyzes political spending.
Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said the party plans to give more than $30,000 to Emily's List, Emerge America and Higher Heights. All three groups work to elect women to office. Hinojosa said the amount was for the funds Weinstein himself donated to the party during the 2016 campaign.
Weinstein has had a powerful perch in Hollywood for three decades, producing films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Shakespeare in Love," for which he won an Oscar.
The New York Times expose chronicled allegations against Weinstein from actress Ashley Judd and former employees at both the Weinstein Co. and Weinstein's former company, Miramax, over the course of several decades. The report made an enormous impact felt throughout the movie industry and elsewhere.
"This abuse of power must be called out, however powerful the abuser, and we must publicly stand with those brave enough to come forward," wrote actress America Ferrera on Twitter. Many others, including Lena Dunham and Brie Larson also added their voices to the uproar.
The board of directors has pressured Weinstein to step down from the company he helped create, said a person familiar with the board's deliberations who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Weinstein on Thursday issued a lengthy statement that acknowledged causing "a lot of pain." He also asked for "a second chance." But Weinstein and his lawyers, including Charles J. Harder, have criticized the New York Times' report in statements and interviews, though neither has referenced anything specific.
"We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting," said a New York Times spokesperson in a statement. "Mr. Weinstein was aware and able to respond to specific allegations in our story before publication. In fact, we published his response in full."
The GOP jumped on the episode, happy to force Democrats to return the funds or associate themselves with Weinstein.
"Whether or not that's money they want to take, that's up to them," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
"Returning this dirty money should be a no-brainer," said Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel. And RNC spokeswoman Cassie Smedile said Democrats decided to "shirk the moral high ground and instead chose to launder the dirty Harvey Weinstein money to fellow Democratic political organizations."
Demands to return campaign dollars are a staple of Washington politics practiced by both parties.
Republicans pressured Democratic candidates in 2011 to return donations from former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who had resigned when his lewd online behavior became public.
Democrats did the same after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was sentenced to prison last year in a hush-money case that stemmed from decades-old sexual abuse during his years as a wrestling coach.
The report on Weinstein came almost exactly a year after the election-campaign release of audio from 2005 in which now-President Donald Trump made offensive, lewd comments about women.
"The Democratic party condemns all forms of sexual harassment and assault," Hinojosa, the Democratic spokeswoman, said in a statement that also criticized "men like Trump who continue to show us that they lack respect for more than half of America."
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