Big-dollar Dem donor makes controversial move following Franken resignation
Liberal politics junkies are likely more aware of the big-money donors on the right — for example, Charles and David Koch — than those who fund progressive candidates and causes. We would wager that many have never heard of Susie Tompkins Buell,
the founder of the Esprit clothing brand, as well as a close personal friend of Hillary Clinton and prominent donor of her campaign. Buell also donated to Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, after speaking with him at an event in 1991.
Buell was just one of a number of people who donated to Democratic activist David Brock’s coordinated effort to take down Trump for alleged sexual harassment and assault leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Buell reportedly contributed $500,000 to lawyer Lisa Bloom’s firm, which was seeking funds for “security, relocation and possibly a ‘safe house.'”
It may surprise you to know that Buell, who has been a strong supporter of women politicians, is now reconsidering support for Democratic senators who pushed for Al Franken to resign.
Buell said she is weighing whether to continue her financial support after the calls for Franken’s exit last month. The charge for his resignation — led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and followed almost immediately by a string of statements from other prominent female Democratic senators — came on Dec. 6, before the conclusion of an official Senate Ethics Committee inquiry.
In two interviews this week, Buell described the push for Franken’s departure as “unfair,” “cavalier,” and somewhat politically motivated — “a stampede,” “like a rampage,” she said, speaking in stark terms about senators she has backed for years, naming Gillibrand in particular.
“They need to know that some of their biggest supporters are questioning why they did that,” Buell said. “We have to do things conscientiously and fairly. He didn’t have the chance to defend himself.”
These are senators that almost unanimously said he should have his opportunity to explain himself with the Ethics Committee,” she said. “Then, within hours of each other, they said he should resign. It was clearly, clearly highly organized.”
Some senators now agree with Buell:
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who joined the rush of calls for a resignation on Dec. 6, has since said that he and others in the Senate acted too hastily. “I have stood for due process throughout my years as a prosecutor and in chairing the Judiciary Committee,” Leahy told the Burlington Free Press on Dec. 18. “I regret not doing that this time. The Ethics Committee should have been allowed to investigate and make its recommendation.”
That same week, another Democrat in the Senate, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said in an interview with Politico that the move by Franken’s Democratic colleagues was “hypocritical” and “atrocious.”
Buell’s decision is likely to stoke snark from Trump’s online minions, but make no mistake: this is a shot across the bow from a top progressive benefactor who has her ear to the ground on the nuances of #MeToo.