Harvey Weinstein Scandal Shakes up the Democratic Party

Disgraced former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein in 2015. (Unmodified Creative Commons photo by Thomas Hawk. bit.ly/1eBd9Ks)

Over 40 women have now accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault or harassment.

Beginning with an October 5 article by The New York Times, allegations against Weinstein have been slow to stir a response in the Democratic Party. The Miramax co-founder has historically been known to hold close ties to the party, including notable Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and former president Barack Obama.

It took five days after the initial article for both Obama and Clinton to denounce the now former Hollywood executive. Obama called for men guilty of Weinstein’s behavior to “be condemned and held accountable” and Clinton said his actions “cannot be tolerated.”

Despite their public statements, Clinton and Obama are among a collection of Democrats who have yet to distance themselves fully from Weinstein’s financial contributions.

When asked, Clinton told CNN that she plans to give Weinstein’s campaign contributions, which came out to be more than $26,000 for the 2016 election alone, to a charitable organization. However, she further explained that the donation will be part of the “ten percent” of her income that she donates to charity annually.

The Clinton Foundation, on the other hand, announced that it will not be returning the nearly $250,000 in donations it has received from Weinstein.

Obama, who received over $45,000 from Weinstein over the course of both presidential campaigns, has yet to announce plans for the funds.

Weinstein has given Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., roughly $118,000 in campaign donations since 1999, but so far the governor has only vowed to give away the $50,000 of the money Weinstein contributed in the current election cycle.

Cuomo has been criticized by Republicans for his decision to retain over half the money. Notably, Jessica Proud, a Republican spokeswoman, called Cuomo’s response “hypocrisy.”

Although Cuomo is under fire for his decision, he is not the only one choosing to keep donations from Weinstein. The Democratic National Committee itself has received over $300,000 from Weinstein plans to give only 10 percent of the money to charity.

A number of Democratic senators, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Cory Booker, D- N.J., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., have already vowed to return all of the money they have received from Weinstein over the years.

Their intention is to donate the money to charities that help victims of domestic and sexual violence. More specifically, Gillibrand has announced plans to give her campaign funds from Weinstein to RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the nation.

All four Democrats are also seen as ambitious politicians with eyes on the 2020 presidential race.

It is well known that the Democratic Party’s close ties to Hollywood are a frequent means of attempts to increase popularity as well as finances, but they come at a cost when issues of misconduct arise. The Weinstein scandal thus raises the question of Democratic dependence on celebrity endorsements and donations.

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