Gov. Andrew Cuomo changes mind on Harvey Weinstein’s campaign cash


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Fallout continues for Harvey Weinstein in the wake of sexual assault allegations against him. He was ‘terminated, effective immediately’ from The Weinstein Company. Democrats he backed are distancing themselves as well.
USA TODAY

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday he will give away all contributions Harvey Weinstein made to his political campaigns, hours after defending his decision to donate less than half.

In a statement Thursday evening, Cuomo’s campaign signaled it would donate more than $111,000 to women’s organizations, reversing its previous decision to give away only $50,000, the amount the disgraced film mogul gave to Cuomo’s 2018 campaign.

Cuomo was a major beneficiary of Weinstein’s campaign donations, taking in $111,400 to his gubernatorial and attorney general campaigns dating back to 2006.

But Cuomo originally broke with other New York Democrats — including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer — who pledged to donate all of Weinstein’s past contributions, including those to previous campaigns.

Cuomo, whose successful 2014 campaign ended with more than $9 million in the bank, said Thursday morning the money given to previous campaigns had already been spent.

But by Thursday evening, Cuomo’s campaign reversed course, instead pledging to donate all the money as it continued to face pressure from Republican leaders.

Basil Smikle, executive director of the state Democratic Committee, issued a statement on behalf of Cuomo’s campaign. He accused Republicans of trying to “score political points,” but said the “real issues are far too serious to allow any distraction to overtake them.”

“For that reason, the extraordinary step will be taken of giving all contributions from prior campaigns whose committees have been closed for years so that we can dispense with the Republican ploys and focus on the real issues,” Smikle said.

Cuomo’s campaign has not identified which organizations will receive the donations, but said they will go to groups focused on women’s rights.

“We returned the money that Harvey donated to my gubernatorial campaign,” Cuomo told reporters on Long Island. “Obviously, money he donated to past campaigns has been spent and has been gone.”

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A prodigious campaign fundraiser, Cuomo won elections for attorney general in 2006 and governor in 2010 and 2014.

He’s up for re-election next year.

Cuomo’s campaign account had a balance of $25.7 million as of July 15, according to state Board of Elections records.

Weinstein was ousted from his role at The Weinstein Company after an expose last week from The New York Times uncovered decades of sexual harassment allegations against him.

On Tuesday, The New Yorker published a separate article on Weinstein with women accusing him of sexual assault.

Cuomo’s original decision to donate only some of Weinstein’s previous contributions drew criticism from the state Republican Party, which pointed out Schumer and Gillibrand donated Weinstein contributions dating back more than a decade.

“Democrats across the country have had the sense to give the money back, but not Governor Cuomo,” Jessica Proud, a GOP spokeswoman, said in a statement Wednesday.

“What kind of message does it send to women and victims that despite everything we know about the abuse Harvey Weinstein inflicted on them, he still won’t let go of his $60,000? His actions speak volumes.”

Cuomo said Thursday morning that returning the campaign donations is the “right symbol,” but said the discussion should focus on the broader issue of sexual harassment and assault.

“It’s bigger than Harvey Weinstein,” Cuomo said. “I have three daughters. I want to make sure that at the end of the day, this world is a safer, better world for my three daughters.”

He continued: “So getting into tiffs about Harvey Weinstein’s money sort of misses the point. Will you support legislation to penalize sexual assault against women the way you should? Will you support legislation that will stop campus sexual assaults, which is an epidemic in this country that we have covered up for too long?”

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