Stacey Plaskett, the delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Virgin Islands, reversed course on Tuesday, announcing she would no longer keep the thousands of dollars donated to her campaign by Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy sex offender recently accused of child sex trafficking.
“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 told CNBC.
The Democrat congresswoman initially refused to return the $8,100 her campaign has received since 2016 from Epstein, who owns a private island in the Virgin Islands territory called Little Saint James. The majority of the money, $5,400, was donated during Plaskett’s 2016 re-election campaign when she faced a strong primary opponent. Epstein’s most recent donation of $2,700 — the maximum contribution allowed by FEC guidelines at the times — came during the 2018 campaign cycle.
Plaskett’s refusal generated widespread media attention, leading to criticism from many on the left.
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On Tuesday, Plaskett admitted she was “uncomfortable” with keeping the money as it was tied to someone accused of “egregious actions.”
“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,” the congresswoman said Tuesday. “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.”
It is unclear why the congresswoman only now is “uncomfortable” with the campaign contributions, especially since Epstein has been a registered sex offender since 2008.
On Saturday, the billionaire financier was arrested in New Jersey on one count of sex trafficking and a separate count of conspiracy. On Monday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York officially charged Epstein with exploiting “dozens” of underage girls in New York, Florida, and the Virgin Islands, among other locations.
Federal prosecutors allege Epstein gave his victims “hundreds of dollars in cash” to engage in sexual acts at his mansions in New York, Florida, and the Virgin Islands. Epstein is reported to have relied on a wide circle of friends, associates, and even former victims to find other underage girls for him to abuse. A number of the victims were trafficked between Epstein’s properties in the mainland U.S. and the Virgin Islands between 2002 and 2005.
Prior to his 2008 conviction in Florida, Epstein was an influential political donor, noted for his support of Democrat candidates and causes. From 1989 to 2003, he donated more than $139,000 to Democrats running for federal office, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.