A prominent #MeToo advocacy group with ties to a top Joe Biden adviser refused to publicize sexual harassment allegations against the former vice president earlier this year.
Time’s Up, a non-profit committed to ending workplace and gender discrimination, was contacted by a former Biden senate staffer in January. The staffer, Tara Reade, had previously come forward to accuse the former vice president of inappropriate touching while working in his congressional office in the early 1990s. That initial attempt to tell her story, however, had gone poorly, with some reporters and media personalities using an old Medium piece Reade had penned praising Russia and Vladimir Putin to dismiss the allegations outright.
Reade, according to The Intercept, was hoping Time’s Up could not only publicize her story and Biden’s alleged misconduct, but also help in pursuing legal action against online “harassers.” She had some cause to hope the organization would take up the case. Since the launch of the #MeToo movement, Time’s Up had become one of the most important conduits for sexual harassment survivors to tell their stories. The group’s public presence was only enhanced by its fundraising prowess. To date, Time’s Up has raised more than $24 million from small dollar donors across the country. The money has been used for legal defense for victims of sexual harassment at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) in Washington, D.C.
Shortly after contacting Time’s Up, Reade discussed her allegations with a program director at the NWLC. The initial talks seemed to go well, buoyed by Reade providing evidence that she had informed friends and colleagues of the alleged harassment when it first took place. The program director at NWLC told Reade in January it was likely she could qualify for legal assistance from Time’s Up.
Despite the positive signals, Reade was soon informed that Time’s Up would not be able to offer help. Sharyn Tejani, the director of the Time’s Up’s Legal Defense Fund, informed Reade that getting involved with her case would jeopardize their status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. As such, nonprofits are barred from “directly or indirectly” participating or intervening in any political campaign in favor or against a candidate for public office. Tejani argued it was improper for the legal defense fund to highlight Reade’s allegations against Biden as long as he was running for president.
The reasoning provided, though, strikes many as insufficient. Cleta Mitchell, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP and a noted campaign finance expert, told Breitbart News that a (c)3 advocacy group was well within its ability to highlight Reade’s allegations, especially since they have little to do with Biden’s present candidacy directly. Further complicating the picture is that Time’s Up, itself, is a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) charitable organization that has few limitations on its political activity. Meaning that even if the defense fund was unable to help Reade, the broader organization was more than capable.
“If they is an advocacy group that publicizes incidents of sexual harassment, their failure to publicize this one is likely more problematic, as they appear to be making a decision to protect a prominent political candidate,” Mitchell said.
Adding to the cloudy reasoning for Time’s Up’s refusal to help Reade is that the group has ties to Anita Dunn, a high-profile adviser to the former vice president, through its public relations firm, SKDKnickerbocker.
Dunn, who quietly counseled Harvey Weinstein on how to conduct damage control when his predatory conduct first started to make waves, is managing director at the firm. Another member of the firm’s leadership, Hilary Rosen, helped co-found the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in 2018. It is unclear if either women played a role in Time’s Ups decision to turn away Reade.