Democrats look to distance themselves from Weinstein

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Harvey Weinstein in 2017. (Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images)

Democrats are facing mounting calls from critics to return or donate to charity millions in campaign contributions from Harvey Weinstein after the New York Times’ bombshell report detailing sexual harassment allegations by numerous women against the Oscar-winning movie mogul spanning three decades.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he agrees so-called dirty money ought to be returned.

“This is a pretty bad guy who did some really awful things,” Murphy said. “And, you know, if people need for that money to be returned in order to make it clear that the entities that received them want nothing to do with him and his behavior, then it is probably a smart move.”

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Weinstein and his family have given more than $1.4 million in political contributions since the 1992 election cycle — including nearly $800,000 to the Democratic National Committee.

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told the Associated Press that the organization plans to donate more than $30,000 — Weinstein’s personal contribution to the DNC during the 2016 campaign — to three charities benefitting women.

Numerous Democratic lawmakers — including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. — say they intend to donate Weinstein’s contributions to charities supporting women.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she was unaware if Weinstein had made any contributions to her in the past.

“I don’t know that I’ve received any,” Feinstein said. “I’ll certainly take a look, and then I’ll make a decision.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Weinstein made at least two small contributions to Feinstein: $375 in 1992 and $1,000 in 1994.

On Thursday, the Times reported that Weinstein reached at least eight settlements with women who accused him of sexual harassment between 1990 and 2015. The newspaper also included accounts from other women, including actress Ashley Judd, who said he asked her to watch him shower during a breakfast meeting in his hotel suite in the mid 1990s.

In a statement, Weinstein apologized for his behavior, blaming it in part on the office culture that existed when he began his career.

“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different,” he said. “I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office — or out of it.”

Weinstein added, “I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed. I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.”

The 65-year-old has been fired from the film studio he co-founded, the Weinstein Co. On Sunday, the company’s board of directors said his termination was effective immediately “in light of new information about misconduct” by Weinstein.

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Hillary Clinton and producer Harvey Weinstein attend the 2012 Time 100 Gala in New York City. (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Murphy, who has never received money from Weinstein, said accepting campaign cash from controversial figures is a bipartisan issue.

“Let’s be honest. We take tens of thousands of contributions,” Murphy said. “I don’t require a background check to contribute to my campaign. And so there are probably lots of people with unsavory backgrounds and pasts who have given to both Democrats and Republicans. But this was a high-profile individual who did some truly awful things, and people that took money from him should probably give it back.”

Meanwhile, two high-profile Democrats have yet to comment on the revelations: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Each have ties to the disgraced film producer: Weinstein hosted fundraisers for both Obama and Clinton at his homes during their 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns, and the filmmaker offered strategic advice to the Clinton campaign during her primary battle against Bernie Sanders. And Obama’s daughter, Malia, served as an intern with the Weinstein Co. this year.

On Saturday night, President Trump was asked about the sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein.

“I’ve known Harvey Weinstein for a long time,” Trump said. “I’m not at all surprised to see it.”

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