Rep. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I.
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Democratic congresswoman Stacey Plaskett has decided to reverse course and will give away the contributions she has received from Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of child-sex trafficking.
The move comes a day after her team told CNBC that she was unlikely to return the campaign donations after Epstein’s arrest.
“In light of new information and allegations that have been made against Jeffrey Epstein I have decided to make contributions to Virgin Islands organizations that work with women and children in the amount of his previous contributions,” Plaskett said in a statement Tuesday.
“My litmus test for accepting campaign contributions has been based on whether the donor’s money was made legally or by ill-gotten means and that the contributor will not ask of me or my Congressional office for any special favors. All my contributions have passed that test. In this case however, I am uncomfortable having received money from someone who has been accused of these egregious actions multiple times,” said Plaskett, who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands in the House as a delegate.
Her initial announcement led to an outcry on social media, with prominent Democratic strategists such as Adam Parkhomenko calling on Plaskett to give the money over to a nonprofit organization such as the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
“For the record, she shouldn’t return the contribution. She should immediately donate the Epstein funds to an organization,” such as RAINN or the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, he added.
Since Epstein pleaded not guilty Monday, Plaskett is the first politician to say she is giving away donations from Epstein.
While the Virgin Islands is considered a territory, its representative in the House of Representatives is a delegate with limited voting power. Plaskett is involved with committees and has certain responsibilities on the floor but not if her vote is going to be decisive.
Epstein has been ordered to be held without bail until at least next week.
The wealthy financier owns an entire private island in the Virgin Islands called Little Saint James. He contributed $2,700 to Plaskett, the most an individual donor can give directly to a candidate in both the primary and the general election, during her 2018 run for reelection, according to a Federal Election Commission record.
In 2016, he wrote two separate $2,700 checks for Plaskett, including one during her primary campaign. She finished the 2018 congressional midterms raising just over $359,000. Her latest campaign filing shows she has $40,000 on hand and owes just over $24,000.
Plaskett appears to be one of the few candidates that received a donation from Epstein last cycle. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee saw a $10,000 check from him in October but immediately sent it back.
Epstein historically has been a staunch financial supporter of Democrats. He has also been friends with President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, Trump said he is “not a fan” of Epstein’s and that the two had a “falling out” years ago.
From the late 1980s until 2003, Epstein gave at least $139,000 to Democrats running for public office, including former President Bill Clinton, and associated political action committees, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. One of his former charities, the C.O.U.Q. Foundation, reportedly donated $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
Clinton’s spokesman, Angel Urena, addressed his boss’s past interactions with Epstein in a statement late Monday. In it, Urena said that the former president hasn’t spoken to Epstein in well over a decade and never had any knowledge of his alleged crimes.
He did not address the various contributions made to Clinton’s presidential campaign and the foundation.