Who could have guessed that the kingpin of an industry that inundates us with vulgarity and violence could turn out to be vulgar predator? What a shocker.
I’m talking, of course, about Harvey Weinstein, the latest man of power to face sexual harassment and assault allegations. He’s the new Bill Cosby. Or Roger Ailes. Or Donald Trump.
Hollywood isn’t my usual subject matter, but there are elements to the rise and fall of the Miramax founder that connect the story to Albany.
As you probably know, Weinstein has been a major donor to Democrats in New York and elsewhere — including to our fair governor, the state’s two senators, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and many others. This is awkward, of course, for a party that fancies itself the champion of women’s rights.
So in the wake of the allegations, including from Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, most of the Democrats who benefited from Weinstein’s largesse have hurried to distance themselves from the fruit of the poisoned tree by donating every penny to charity.
There is, however, a notable exception.
Andrew Cuomo has received $114,400 from Weinstein for his various statewide campaigns going back to 2006, according to campaign finance records. But the governor says he will only shed the $50,000 that Weinstein donated since his 2014 re-election.
The reasoning for doing so — that the prior campaigns already spent Weinstein’s money — is ludicrous, given that Cuomo has ended every race with money in the bank. At the end of the 2014 campaign, for example, the governor still had $8.8 million available; he had $5 million on hand after his 2010 run.
Yet we’re to believe that Weinstein’s donations, in particular, were spent? Please. It’s like tracking a gallon of water dumped into a swimming pool.
I’ll admit to finding this whole game a little silly. Call me a cynic, but I work from the presumption that most major donors to big political campaigns are unsavory characters and that the money they give is tainted by suspicious motivations.
So I would have to grudgingly admire the Cuomo campaign if it said, “Yeah, Weinstein is a total creepjob — but we don’t require our contributors to be saints and we shouldn’t be expected to know what degradations they’re up to. We’re keeping every dime, baby!”
But this, sadly, is not what the Cuomo campaign said. It instead went with a half-measure that doesn’t make sense.
The accusations against Weinstein stretch back years, so it isn’t as though the money given recently is dirtier than the old donations. Even setting the sexual allegations aside, a quick Google search provides plenty of evidence that the man is a volcanic pig who has long treated his employees with contempt.
Democrats took his money anyway — and worse, often treated him like a treasured friend. Did they not hear the whispers? Or did they chose to ignore them?
(Sorry GOP partisans, but Republicans would have done the same if Weinstein had been a member of their clique.)
In any event, the $114,400 given to Cuomo easily tops what Weinstein donated to any other active politician: Kirsten Gillibrand received $11,800, while Chuck Schumer got $16,200.
Weinstein has also been important to the career of Sandra Lee, the governor’s longtime girlfriend. A 2011 profile in New York magazine noted that before she was truly famous, Lee partnered with Miramax books. Weinstein, it reported, “promoted her aggressively, landing her four appearances on ‘Today,’ a segment on ‘The View,’ a column in ‘Parade,’ and a one-shot magazine published by Hachette Filipacchi.”
That same profile also called Albany “the world capital of boring” — but, in fairness, it was written before the opening of our thrilling new convention center.
Who’s boring now?
But I’ve digressed.
Bill Mulrow, chairman of Cuomo’s re-election effort and his former top gubernatorial aide, says the campaign is still deciding which women’s rights group will receive the $50,000 in Weinstein cash. The hope here is that it goes to an organization that truly helps victims of sexual assault, and not to a “charity” that will redistribute the money to Democratic candidates.
Mulrow also said Cuomo was unaware of Weinstein’s ugly behavior prior to last week’s New York Times blockbuster detailing many of the allegations against him.
Weinstein initially responded to the Times’ revelations by declaring that he’s going to use his sudden free time to take on the National Rifle Association.
That’s rich, given that many of his Miramax and Weinstein Company movies have been so casually violent, depicting high-powered weapons as instruments of empowerment, freedom and justice. The movies promote the gun culture more effectively than the NRA ever could.
I mean, has Weinstein seen “Pulp Fiction” or “Kill Bill”? Each film is bloodier than a Red Cross donation center.
But that’s Hollywood. Hypocritical to the bitter end.