RNC chair: We won't give back Steve Wynn's donations until he's had due process

Yes, well, Harvey Weinstein hasn’t had due process either. And yet.

Note the date. McDaniel sent those tweets within 24 hours of the NYT publishing its first big expose of Weinstein’s degeneracy and four days *before* Ronan Farrow’s follow-up bombshell appeared in the New Yorker. To say that the dust hadn’t settled yet on the Weinstein story before she was demanding that Democrats return his contributions isn’t the half of it. Most of the dust hadn’t even been kicked up yet. And yet here she is in the clip below demanding due process for Steve Wynn, the casino mogul turned RNC finance chair turned alleged serial harasser, before Republicans hand back any of his money.

Could it be a difference in the amount of evidence against each of them? There was a *lot* of evidence against Weinstein. Against Wynn, however, there’s … a lot of evidence too, according to the WSJ:

[D]ozens of people The Wall Street Journal interviewed who have worked at Mr. Wynn’s casinos told of behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn. Some described him pressuring employees to perform sex acts…

Former employees said they sometimes entered fake appointments in the books to help other female workers get around a request for services in Mr. Wynn’s office or arranged for others to pose as assistants so they wouldn’t be alone with him. They told of female employees hiding in the bathroom or back rooms when they learned he was on the way to the salon.

“Everybody was petrified,” said Jorgen Nielsen, a former artistic director at the salon. Mr. Nielsen said he and others repeatedly told high-level company executives Mr. Wynn’s sexual advances were causing a problem, but “nobody was there to help us.”…

Dennis Gomes, who was an executive at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas when Mr. Wynn was running that casino decades ago, said in a deposition in an early-1990s lawsuit that Mr. Gomes “routinely received complaints from various department heads regarding Wynn’s chronic sexual harassment of female employees,” according to a court filing that summarized his testimony.

According to the Journal, of the 150 people its reporters spoke to for the story, not one initiated contact with them. No one was shopping a story on Wynn as revenge for some past wrong. The paper simply did its homework. Some women are quoted in the story on the record, by name, and a payment of $7.5 million allegedly made by Wynn to a manicurist whom he pressured into sex appears to be corroborated by court filings, albeit vaguely. (The payment is noted in the filings, says the WSJ, and there’s a reference to “allegations of assault” in another filing in connection with it, but the specific details aren’t recounted.) If the Times’s Weinstein story in October was damning enough to warrant Democrats coughing up his donations, as McDaniel demanded, why isn’t the Journal’s story last week damning enough to warrant Republicans coughing up Wynn’s?

A point about “due process”:

Let me add three more. One: If McDaniel means criminal due process, she’s setting a high bar for disgorging contributions from “problematic” donors. As I said up top, Harvey Weinstein not only hasn’t been convicted of a crime yet, he hasn’t so much as been charged with one. Proving sexual misconduct beyond a reasonable doubt years after an incident occurred would be hard even if the defendant couldn’t afford a phalanx of top defense attorneys, which Wynn can. If criminal due process is the standard then McDaniel’s all but declaring here that they’ll never return Wynn’s money. In which case, why didn’t she apply the same standard to Democrats and Weinstein?

Two: If she means civil due process, i.e. one of Wynn’s accusers taking him to court and seeking to recover damages for a tort, doesn’t the $7.5 million settlement with the manicurist clear that bar? McDaniel would probably say no, not unless Wynn admitted guilt under the terms of the settlement. But why the hell would he have done that? The point of hush money is to avoid admitting guilt. If that’s the RNC’s standard, that only a jury verdict against Wynn in a civil trial would force Republicans to give up his money, then she’s also essentially declaring that they’ll never give the money back. Wynn’s rich enough that he’d never allow a claim to reach the trial phase unless the plaintiff absolutely insisted upon it. He’d make them name their price and then pay them off. To McDaniel, apparently, that doesn’t count as “due process.”

Three: If it’d be unfair to hand back Wynn’s money, why wasn’t it also unfair to muscle him out as RNC finance chair? How does that make any sense? They’re confident enough in his guilt not to associate with him but not quite confident enough to stop profiting from that association? If this is a principled due process position (which it isn’t), then he should stay on as finance chair as well. Bizarrely, McDaniel herself mentions that Wynn was forced out from his RNC role after the Journal story appeared, as if she’s patting herself on the back for her quick action instead of contradicting the entire thrust of her argument otherwise. Either Wynn’s radioactive or he isn’t. If he’s not fit to serve, and if Democrats were duty bound to shed themselves of Weinstein’s dirty money, the RNC should follow suit and shed themselves of Wynn’s.

Here’s a better idea. The next time a donor on either side is credibly accused of something terrible, calmly explain to the public that future donations from him won’t be accepted but that there’s no moral disgrace in having taken money from him before knowing what he was up to. Jon Ralston, whose newspaper has also received donations from Wynn, writes today that “If we get into the business of returning donations to those who have transgressed in some way, shape or form — whether legally, ethically or morally — we will put ourselves on a slippery slope from which there may be no return.” That standard might get complicated if it can be shown that not just the donor himself but the money he donated is tied up in illicit business, but it’s defensible in the abstract. It’s just not defensible by McDaniel after her insistence that Democrats rid themselves of Weinstein’s money. Besides, a key Republican argument against Democrats is that Weinstein’s behavior was an open secret in Hollywood and beyond — that is, that prominent liberals did know what he was up to and took his filthy money anyway. Is the same true of Wynn? Given the number of witnesses who talked to the Journal, was his behavior also an open secret known even to some top Republicans? If so, the “keep the money” position becomes much harder to stomach.

Exit question: Is the difference to McDaniel between Weinstein and Wynn merely that … Wynn denied the charges? In other words, all Weinstein had to do was say “never happened” after the NYT story came out and Democrats could have kept all of his money? What?