FREEPORT, ME – Sara Gideon kicked off her campaign for U.S. Senate feigning indignation at the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to try and capitalize on the energy of the #metoo movement. Now, as Gideon reckons with accusations she allowed an alleged sexual predator to serve in the Maine House for months, Federal Election Commission financial documents show she accepted money from a key lawyer in the Harvey Weinstein #metoo scandal, one whose counsel guided the Weinstein Company to keep the convicted sexual predator in his powerful position.
Weinstein was eventually convicted on counts of sexual assault earlier this year in the landmark #metoo movement case and sentenced to more than two decades in prison.
According to the FEC, last fall Gideon accepted a $2,500 contribution from H. Rodgin Cohen, an attorney at Sullivan & Cromwell, a Wall Street law firm. Gideon was one of a handful of Democrats to receive between $2,500 and $5,600 from Cohen, according to the Wall Street Journal. Most did not keep the money, refunding it or donating it to charity.
But Sara Gideon’s FEC filing, just like the Super PAC of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, shows Gideon quietly accepted the contribution.
According to multiple accounts of the situation both in books and media reports, Cohen played a key role in advocating for the board of the Weinstein Company to retain Harvey Weinstein as the #metoo scandal engulfed the wealthy movie producer. The reports say that some members of the board at the Weinstein Company were seeking to review Harvey Weinstein’s personnel file to learn the details of the accusations.
Rather than open the file to the board, the company instructed Cohen, now a Gideon donor, to review it. Upon review, Cohen advocated to the board for them to retain Harvey Weinstein. By telling the board that Harvey Weinstein had “no unresolved claims” in his file, Cohen aided Weinstein in securing a new contract.
After the review and decision, Lance Maerov, a member of the board, learned that Cohen’s son was an employee at the Weinstein Company, calling his objectivity into question, according to NYMag’s Intelligencer.
H. Rodgin Cohen is no stranger to the limelight. Known as Wall Street’s pre-eminent lawyer, Cohen can count among his clients JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Bank of New York/Mellon, USBank, GECC, MetLife, Ally, American Express, Citi and many others.
According to Cohen’s bio, he also represents foreign banks, including advising China Merchants Bank, the first Chinese bank to receive approval of the Federal Reserve to operate in the U.S. since the adoption of a foreign bank regulation in 1991.
A search of refunds issued by Gideon’s campaign listed with the Federal Elections Commission as of August 2, 2020 showed no refund to Cohen had been made.
In December of 2019, Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg returned a $5,000 donation from H. Rodgin Cohen, according to the NY Post.
A Politico wrap-up of powerful individuals spotted at high-profile political fundraising events in June of 2019 listed Cohen as an attendee at a Biden fundraising, quoting the New York Times calling H. Rodgin Cohen, “the man who, aside from government officials likeHenry M. Paulson Jr., Ben S. Bernanke and Timothy F. Geithner, played perhaps the largest role of all in the gruesome doings of the Wall Street bailout.”
A NY Mag Intelligencer summary of a Bloomberg-sponsored panel on the financial crisis quoted Cohen as saying that the post-crisis financial system, “The system will look more like what preceded the current environment than many people seem to believe” and that he was “far from convinced there was something inherently wrong with the system.”
Gideon has attempted to tailor her image as one of a candidate opposing large corporate money and supportive of the #metoo movement. Her decision to accept the large contribution from Cohen appears to, once again, contradict both those fundamental claims from her campaign.