Despite pledges, politicians fail to shed tainted donations. Surprise!

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he’ll offset $7,000 in campaign contributions he’s received from accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein by donating an equivalent amount to anti-sex trafficking and anti-violence against women groups.

Don’t count on it.

In 2017, when multiple women went public with accusations that Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed them, Democratic politicians, including Schumer, leaped to disassociate themselves from him. In particular, they promised to donate Weinstein’s now-tainted campaign contributions to charity.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Schumer was prominent among numerous politicians scurrying to say they would make amends. Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that Weinstein donated $20,700 to the Friends of Schumer campaign finance committee during 2013-2017.

“Sen. Schumer is donating all of the (Weinstein) contributions to several charities supporting women,” Matt House, a spokesman for Sen. Schumer, told the Washington Post in October 2017.

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Harvey Weinstein

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel praised Schumer  for doing the right thing.

She was too quick in her praise.

FEC records reveal that Schumer’s campaign committee didn’t donate one thin dime to charities supporting women in 2017 or 2018.

During that same period, Schumer’s committee also received contributions from the DNC Services Corp (Democratic National Committee), to which Weinstein had donated $203,458.

There’s no evidence that Schumer’s committee re-distributed any of that money to women’s groups either.

To its apparent credit, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) said it would donate $30,000 of the funds it had received from Weinstein to three non-profits:

  • Emily’s List, a political action committee that aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office.
  • Emerge America, an organization that recruits, trains and provides a network to Democratic women who want to run for office, and
  • Higher Heights, a national organization working to elect Black women, influence elections and advance progressive policies.

FEC records of the DNC’s expenditures in 2017-2018 reveal that it lived up to its promise.

On Oct. 30, 2017, the DNC sent Emily’s List $10,290.15.  (The DNC also sent $5,000 to Emily’s List on May 25, 2017, but that was before the Weinstein scandal erupted.)

The DNC also sent $10,290.15 to both Emerge America and Higher Heights on Oct. 30, 2017. It sent $1250 to Higher Heights on Sept. 29.

But there was a hitch. The DNC collected $300,000 in donations from Weinstein, not $30,000. It kept the other $270,000.

Other Democratic politicians, including some who are now running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, also had received funds from Weinstein and also made a lot of promises to send the money to deserving non-profits. The announced recipients, however, were largely organizations that would launder the money right back to Democrats and their causes.

Even then, not all the politicians followed through on their commitments.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA) said she’d donate $5,000 she received from Weinstein to Casa Myrna, a nonprofit group in Massachusetts. The FEC’s records on expenditures of the Elizabeth Warren Action Fund during 2017-2018 don’t show any payments to Casa Myrna.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said she would donate $10,000 received from Weinstein to RAAIN, (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence organization. No such donation is reported in FEC records of expenditures by Gillibrand’s 2017-2018 campaign finance committees.
  • Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said he’d send Weinstein’s donations to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. According to OpenSecrets.org, Weinstein donated a total of $17,300 to Franken and his Midwest Values PAC. None of Franken’s campaign finance committees recorded on FEC.org show a donation to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center during 2017-2018.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said she would give $5,000 she received from Weinstein to a women’s rights nonprofit, Equal Rights Advocates. FEC records on Harris’ campaign finance committees do not show such a donation during 2017-2018.
  • Bob Casey (D-PA) said he’d give $2,190 he received from Weinstein to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. FEC records on Casey’s campaign finance committees do not show such a donation.
  • The Clinton Foundation’s website says Weinstein has donated between $100,001 – $250,000 to the Foundation. In Oct. 2017, the Foundation announced it had no plans to return Weinstein’s contributions, saying they had already been spent on charitable programs. According to the Foundation’s Form 990 report to the IRS, it had net assets of $323,470,879 at the end of 2017.

Looks like a lot of politicians’ promises are no more than empty public relations gestures.  Surprise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvey Weinstein’s not the only one spying on reporters

Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. – Benjamin Franklin

 

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Harvey Weinstein had no qualms about spying on journalists to protect himself, or even using journalists to acquire information he could use against his accusers.

He used Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, who passed on information about Weinstein’s accusers gleaned by his reporters.

Then there was the freelance writer hired by Black Cube, a private intelligence agency, who passed on information about women with allegations against Weinstein.

Sounds creepy. But Weinstein’s not the only one spying on reporters and he’s not the only one trying to undermine and disparage journalists.

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Walmart just removed a t-shirt like the one above from its website, following a complaint from a journalist advocacy group.
The shirt was listed on Walmart’s website through a third-party seller, Teespring, which allows people to post their own designs for sale.

The Columbia Journalism Review just reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said criminal investigations into the sources of journalists are up 800 percent and he’s vowed to “revisit” the Justice Department’s media guidelines that restrict how the US government can conduct surveillance on reporters.

Then there’s Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon who sent two reporters to Alabama to dig up dirt on reporting done by the Washington Post about Alabama Republican Roy Moore. Breitbart’s goa, according to Axios, is to undermine the work of Post reporters Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard, and Alice Crites.

How about when the Koch brothers allegedly hired private investigators to dig into Jane Mayer’s past while she was working on her book, “Dark Money,” which accuses the Kochs and other wealthy plutocrats of hijacking American democracy.

At one point, Mayer heard that she was going to be accused of plagiarizing other writers. According to the New York Times, a dossier of her supposed plagiarism had been provided to The New York Post and The Daily Caller. The writers insisted there had been no plagiarism, causing the smear to collapse.

Three years later Mayer said she traced the plagiarism accusation to a firm involving several people who have worked closely with Koch business concerns. The firm was Vigilant Resources International, whose founder and chairman, Howard Safir, had been New York City’s police commissioner under former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

“Smearing Mayer is reflective of Safir’s contempt for reporters and the media in general when he was police commissioner,” said a Newsday reporter.

In June of this year the New York Post reported that the Trump administration was spying on journalists who have been handed leaked information.

The Post said the Justice Department has obtained a legal warrant from the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to conduct electronic surveillance on reporters who were known to have published articles based on leaked information.

The surveillance was reported to be part of the Trump administration’s attempts to clamp down on leaks from within the White House and government departments.

In some respects, there’s nothing new about all this.

In 2013, the Justice Department advised the Associated Press (AP) that Federal investigators had secretly seized two months of phone records for reporters and editors of the AP. The government had obtained the records for more than 20 telephone lines of its offices and journalists, including their home phones and cellphones.

Gary Pruitt, the president and chief executive of AP, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. calling the seizure, a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its news gathering activities.

There’s so much concern within the journalism community about government spying that the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and Freedom of the Press Foundation are teaming up to find out what’s going on.

On Nov. 29, they filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department and several intelligence agencies, demanding records revealing how the government collects information on journalists and targets them with surveillance.

Weinstein abused the press, too.

The only reason one will respect you as a journalist is because of your integrity. Your integrity is based on your credibility. Your credibility comes from your truthfulness.

Shaka Ssali, a Ugandan born American journalist

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Sexual harassment isn’t Harvey Weinstein’s only sin and women weren’t his only victims. He has also wounded journalists.

Yes, I know, the public’s mistrust of the media is already extreme, but the Weinstein imbroglio has made things worse. It did so by using journalists in his effort to discredit his accusers and employing fake journalists to ferret out damaging information on them.

I’m sensitive to this because I worked as a reporter for 10 years and learned a lot of lessons about the importance of honesty and trust in journalism.

I once investigated an apparent scam artist who was purportedly bilking people out of their money. I was making a lot of progress when the man got suspicious and asked if I was a reporter. I figured it was OK to fudge, so I hemmed and hawed and didn’t admit that I was. When I told my editor what I’d done he pulled me off the story. “We do not conceal our identity as a reporter when asked,” he said. “It undermines our credibility.”

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In the Weinstein case, clearly, no such standards of truthfulness or integrity applied to:

  • Black Cube, a private intelligence agency hired by Weinstein to undermine his accusers (Ronan Farrow, who broke the Weinstein spying story in the New Yorker, identified Black Cube as a key player in the Weinstein case).
  • Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, who passed on to Weinstein’s people information gleaned by his reporters.
  • The freelance writer hired by Black Cube who passed on information from women with allegations against Weinstein, including the actress Annabella Sciorra, who later went public in The New Yorker with a rape allegation against Weinstein, or
  • Other journalists enlisted by Weinstein to uncover information he could use to compromise the credibility of women he’d abused.

Unfortunately, Weinstein isn’t the only guilty party in the reporter impersonation game. Recent incidents include:

  • In April 2017, Barron’s, a prominent financial magazine, said it had learned that somebody posing as one of its reporters contacted investment researchers, a hedge fund and the editor of the Capitol Forum, a Washington media outfit, about a controversial stock.
  • On Nov. 15, the Washington Post reported that a robocall from someone posing as a Post reporter offering money for “damaging remarks” about Alabama Republican Roy Moore was fake.
  • Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that on Nov. 13, 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments in a case that grew out of an FBI agent pretending to be an Associated Press journalist as part of an investigation into bomb threats at a high school in Washington state.

In 2015, AP’s general counsel, Karen Kaiser, wrote to then-U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that the government’s conduct in the Washington case raised “serious constitutional concerns.”

“I think it could erode people’s trust in reporters if one of your sources doesn’t know whether you’re really a reporter or the police,” Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law School, told the Los Angeles Times. “They may be less willing to share information with you. That hurts the public.”

That’s equally true if the public isn’t sure if doesn’t know if you are a real reporter investigating a story or a snitch for the story’s subject.

The behavior of Weinstein’s minions is a shameful abuse of journalism. The media and the public are going to be dealing with its repercussions for a very long time.

 

 

 

 

Politicians are laundering Harvey Weinstein’s filthy lucre

Disingenuous – “Not candid or sincere; giving a false appearance of simple frankness”

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Democrat of New York, is shocked, shocked to find that Harvey Weinstein is a serial sexual harasser of women (And even more egregious, the New Yorker reported today that three women had told a writer there that Weinstein raped them). So shocked is Schumer that he’s going to show his purity by getting rid of the money Weinstein has given to him over the years.

“Sen. Schumer is donating all of the contributions to several charities supporting women,” Matt House, a spokesman for the Democratic leader told the Washington Post.

Other Democrats have gotten religion, too. Lawmakers who have said they will be donating Weinstein’s contributions include: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

No word yet from dozen of other Democrats who have gleefully taken Harvey Weinstein’s money over the years. The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit, nonpartisan research group that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy, has a record of those donations.

According to the Center, recipients of Weinstein’s money include the Democratic Party of Oregon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and such Democratic luminaries as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and even, in an odd twist, the Midwest Values PAC. Weinstein has also made donations to the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation’s website  says Weinstein gave $100,001 to $250,000 through June 2017.

Weinstein has also served as a bundler, collecting contributions from other wealthy donors. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he was a bundler for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, raising millions for both.

But here’s the rub.

The contrite Democrats are being more than a little disingenuous.

Many of the Democrats who say they will be re-gifting Weinstein’s contributions plan to give the money to organizations that support Democrats. In other words, the money’s going to be laundered through liberal groups right back to Democrats and their causes.

The Democratic National Committee, for example, has said it will give some of Weinstein’s donations to Emily’s List, Emerge America and Higher Heights. Emily’s List’s entire focus is on electing more pro-choice Democratic women. Emerge America’s focus is on increasing the number of Democratic women leaders in public office. Higher Heights works to elect Black women, a primary constituency of the Democratic Party (94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016).

Chuck Schumer has said he’ll donate Weinstein’s money to women’s rights groups. You can safely bet that means liberal women’s rights groups that support the Democrats’ agenda, not the National Pro-Life Alliance or The Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative think tank.

Most money laundering is dangerous because it can lead to a criminal investigation. But don’t count on any of the Democrats caught in Harvey Weinstein’s web to face such consequences. They’re politicians. They’re protected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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