WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Thursday began giving away some of the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions they had received from Harvey Weinstein, a wealthy Hollywood producer, moving to distance themselves from him after revelations he had reached at least eight settlements with women accusing him of sexual harassment.
Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts each said they would transfer money to charity in amounts equal to donations they had received from Weinstein. Leahy was planning to donate $5,600, Blumenthal and Heinrich $5,400, and Warren $5,000. Some of them were planning to give to groups that advocate for women who are the victims of domestic violence.
With the four senators ridding themselves of Weinstein’s contributions, other Democratic lawmakers were expected to follow suit Friday in order to mitigate a deeply embarrassing story.
Weinstein has for decades been a generous contributor to liberal candidates and causes, and in recent years has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to some of the most prominent Democrats in the country, including five-figure sums to President Barack Obama and to Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee.
Weinstein has been a fixture at Democratic fundraisers on both coasts in every recent presidential campaign and has helped gather checks for candidates from others in the entertainment industry.
Last October, for example, Weinstein co-produced a Broadway fundraiser for Clinton’s presidential campaign that was headlined by former President Bill Clinton, her husband, and Chelsea Clinton, her daughter, and featured dozens of performing artists.
But he went from being a coveted contributor to a pariah almost immediately Thursday afternoon after The New York Times posted an article revealing that allegations against Weinstein stretched back nearly three decades.
He issued an apology and said he was “trying to do better.”
Republicans, eager to go on the offensive after answering questions for more than a year about President Donald Trump’s conduct with women, swooped in shortly after the article went online to demand that Democrats give up their money from Weinstein.
“If the Democratic Party purports itself to be the champion of women, they ought to lead by example in returning or donating the donations received from Harvey Weinstein,” said Alexandra Smith, who runs America Rising PAC, a Republican opposition research group.
Smith’s group noted that Weinstein had donated more than $300,000 to Democrats in the past six years. Nearly $100,000 of that money went to the Democratic National Committee, which has struggled to raise funds since Trump took office, and more than $20,000 went to the House Democratic campaign arm.
Since 1990, Weinstein has given more than $1.4 million to federal candidates and committees, Variety reported Thursday.