WASHINGTON — The most vulnerable of all Democratic senators up for re-election next year will attend a fundraiser co-hosted by Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger on Thursday, and with it, a GOP candidate is using it to attack his opponent.
In the wake of the event, the campaign of Sen. Claire McCaskill’s opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, put out a statement calling McCaskill “Hollywood’s candidate” and is trying to link her to Harvey Weinstein, a GOP target after his sexual harassment and assault scandal broke last fall.
“In the past, she gave Harvey Weinstein a taxpayer-funded advertisement for his movie,” said Hawley spokesperson Kelli Ford. “It’s no surprise because she is one of the top recipients of money from Hollywood. Now she is going back for even more money.”
The movie in question was “Philomena,” a Weinstein Co. release that was among the Oscar contenders in 2013-14, about Philomena Lee’s search for a child she was forced to put up for adoption. McCaskill met with Lee in 2014 to talk about the issue of forced adoption and Lee’s call for access to records in Ireland.
According to Reuters, Lee met with other lawmakers on that trip — including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.). But the Hawley campaign’s attack is rooted in the idea that the visit to Capitol Hill was a pretext for the movie’s Oscar campaign.
McCaskill’s campaign did not comment. But in her office’s press release for the 2014 meeting, McCaskill talked of her own family’s connection to adoption, and her office noted that Philomena’s son, after being taken away from her, was raised in St. Louis, Mo.
Especially during awards season, Weinstein did have a knack for connecting the themes of his movies with public policy debate and high profile leaders. In the case of “Philomena,” Lee also met with Pope Francis with star Steve Coogan.
The attack from Hawley’s campaign shows the extent to which Republicans are determined to tie red state Democrats to the Hollywood “elite.” It’s a pretty well-worn tactic familiar to those in Hollywood fundraising circles and to candidates, as showbiz is a big source of campaign money and endorsements, but it does come with some payback.
In the days after the Weinstein scandal, the Republican National Committee hammered Democrats for taking contributions from him, and many did give their donations to charity. Democrats returned the favor when sexual harassment allegations surfaced about Steve Wynn, who was the RNC finance chair and resigned his post. Some GOP groups did return contributions.