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As Democrats Purge Weinstein's Cash, Impact On The Party Is Likely To Be Low


As Democratic pols jettison their old contributions from Harvey Weinstein, the former entertainment executive embroiled in multiple allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, his cash is not likely to leave a big hole in party coffers.

Weinstein was a dedicated Democratic donor as early as 1991, when he sent $500 to Sen. Patrick Leahy of New Hampshire. Overall, Weinstein and his two wives have given just over $1 million, according to Federal Election Commission records processed by Political MoneyLine. About $850,000 is from Weinstein himself. He also bundled, helping to raise an unknown amount of other people’s money donated to Democratic presidential candidates.

By comparison, the Center for Responsive Politics says San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer gave Democrats and liberal groups $91 million just in the 2015-16 election cycle.

Despite his frequent checks to candidates and party committees, which raise their money under tight contribution limits, Weinstein never ventured into the deep end of political giving, where America’s wealthiest political players write seven- or eight-figure checks to largely unregulated super PACs. And his companies, Miramax and the Weinstein Company, don’t appear in federal disclosure reports.

His personal giving was outweighed by two other factors. He was a leader in a famously liberal industry. And as a bundler, he delivered much more in other people’s money than he gave himself. It all led to close connections with top-tier Democrats.

When President Barack Obama visited Weinstein’s home in 2012 for a fundraiser, Weinstein told the $35,800-per-ticket crowd, “You can make the case that he’s the Paul Newman of American presidents.”

The New York Times once described Weinstein as “a family friend” of Bill and Hillary Clinton. And when host Charlie Rose interviewed him on CBS This Morning in 2012, they had this exchange. Rose: “So Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, which of those three is your favorite?” Weinstein: “I have no favorites. It’s like the Beatles.”

This week Barack and Michelle Obama, whose eldest daughter recently interned for the Weinstein Company, issued a statement saying they “have been disgusted” by the accounts of Weinstein’s actions, while Hillary Clinton told CNN that his conduct “was just intolerable in every way.”

Much of Weinstein’s cash went to either the Democratic National Committee, or the party’s House and Senate campaign committees. But the longest list of beneficiaries — now the longest list of politicians purging his contributions — is on the Senate side of the Capitol. Over the years he gave to 30 Senate hopefuls — including Weinstein’s sole Republican recipient, 2010 Senate candidate John Chachas in Nevada.

Thirteen Weinstein recipients are now sitting senators, and 12 have said they’re getting rid of his money. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that she’s weighing what to do with her two contributions — a total of $1,375 from 23 years ago. And Hillary Clinton has said she intends to donate Weinstein’s past contributions to charity.

Mike Fraioli, a veteran Democratic fundraiser, said Weinstein’s exit from Democratic politics won’t matter. “There may have been a time when one individual was make-or-break,” Fraioli said, but it’s gone. “There’s just so much money in the system now.”

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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