Biden’s VP search chief tied to China money scandal, Harvey Weinstein and women allegations

'I never received an apology from Chris Dodd,' says Carla Gaviglio, who alleges she was assaulted in a 'shocking and vulgar' 1985 restaurant episode involving the former Connecticut senator.

Updated: April 30, 2020 - 10:58pm

Joe Biden, already facing allegations of sexual assault at home and nepotism in China, has chosen a former U.S. senator with his own political baggage on China, ethics, and women to run the search for a vice presidential nominee.

Christopher Dodd, who retired from the Senate a decade ago, was a central figure in the 1990s China fundraising scandal, having served as the General Chairman of the Democratic Party at a time it and Bill Clinton’s campaign accepted illegal foreign donations and turned the Lincoln bedroom into a donor perk.

The retired Connecticut Democrat also has long boasted a friendship with the convicted Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose sexual misconduct gave rise to the #MeToo movement. Dodd was also one of the top beneficiaries of Weinstein’s political largesse. In fact, Dodd was listed in 2017 as the second largest career recipient of Weinstein’s political donations, behind Barack Obama, according to campaign finance records.

Dodd also has faced allegations of boorish behavior among women, from the late Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher to a restaurant waitress who went public with allegations in a magazine article 30 years ago.

In a 1990 profile of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in GQ, the late journalist Michael Kelly reported that in 1985 Dodd joined with Kennedy in "manhandling" waitress Carla Gaviglio, at a Washington, D.C. restaurant.

Kelly’s account alleged at one point that Kennedy and Dodd had the waitress pinned between them on a chair until other restaurant staff intervened. She left bruised and shocked.

“Kennedy then picks her up from the table and throws her on Dodd, who is sprawled in a chair,” the article alleged. "With Gaviglio on Dodd's lap, Kennedy jumps on top and begins rubbing his genital area against hers, supporting his weight on the arms of the chair."

Gaviglio told Just the News on Thursday that Kelly’s account of the episode was accurate, and that she was later threatened by a political figure, not Dodd, never to talk about the attack or her restaurant would lose business from lawmakers.

The alleged assault at La Brasserie was "shocking and vulgar," Gaviglio said in an interview Thursday after word of Dodd’s appointment to head the Biden VP search surfaced.

"I never received an apology from Chris Dodd,” Gaviglio added.

The late Fisher related in her memoir an episode involving Kennedy and Dodd shortly after she exited drug rehabilitation.

"So, having recently graduated completely healed and normal from my first stint in a rehab, and appearing in an almost perfectly respectable piece of work, I found myself driving from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., to have dinner with Chris Dodd, this senator who I knew virtually nothing about. Nor did Senator Dodd — like most people, then, now and always — have any idea who I was in the wide, wide world beyond this cute little actress who'd played Princess Leia," Fischer wrote in her 2011 book "Shockaholic."

"Suddenly, Senator Kennedy, seated directly across from me, looked at me with his alert, aristocratic eyes and asked me a most surprising question. 'So,' he said, clearly amused, 'do you think you'll be having sex with Chris at the end of your date?' ... To my left, Chris Dodd looked at me with an unusual grin hanging on his very flushed face."

Fisher recounted: "'Funnily enough, I won't be having sex with Chris tonight,' I said, my face composed and calm. 'No, that probably won't happen.' People blinked. 'Thanks for asking, though.' 'Would you have sex with Chris in a hot tub?' Senator Kennedy asked me, perhaps as a way to say good night? 'I'm no good in water,' I told him."

Dodd did not address the episode when the book surfaced.

Dodd discussed his relationship with Weinstein, now serving time in prison for sexual assault, back in a 2012 interview with the Hollywood Reporter. By that time, Dodd had left the Senate and become the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, the main Hollywood lobby.

"I've known Harvey for 25, 30 years, and we've been friends," Dodd said at the time. "He was very helpful to me as a candidate for Congress and as a senator over the years."

A 2017 article on Weinstein's donations, based on Federal Election Commission records, listed Dodd as the second largest recipient of Weinstein money at $36,000, behind Barack Obama, since 2000.

During the Clinton-era fund-raising scandal, Dodd was forced to watch as his fellow senators dissected fundraising activities of the Democratic National Committee that he presided over as general chairman from 1995-1997 and that led to illegal foreign donations flowing into party coffers from Chinese-connected figures.

Dodd was never accused of any crimes, and he tried to distance himself from many of the scandal’s biggest figures and most controversial tactics. But the Senate’s final investigative report concluded that Dodd regularly attended the strategy sessions between the Clinton White House and the DNC that gave rise to the aggressive fundraising tactics that unwittingly tapped foreign money.

For instance, a 1996 memo unearthed by investigators from then-White House official Harold Ickes identified Dodd as a member of the key strategy group.

“It was agreed that a small working committee would be established which would include Chairman Fowler (or his representative), Chairman Dodd (or his representative), B.J. Thornberry, Brad Marshall, Marvin Rosen, Doug Sosnik, and others as may be agreed to, to meet at least once weekly, and more often if necessary, to implement this agreement,” the Ickes memo read.

Former Clinton political adviser Dick Morris in testimony, likewise, identified Dodd as a key player in the DNC fundraising machine that went astray.

“We would then take those suggestions, and suggestions that were also made by all the other people in the group in the room, including Senator Dodd and [then-White House aide George] Stephanopoulos and a bunch of folks, and we would then have a creative meeting, which was a group meeting of the consultants, right after the — the day after the strategy meeting,” Morris testified in his deposition.

A separate House committee report on the scandal recounted an episode in which Dodd’s public statements seeking to defend the DNC and a controversial fundraiser didn’t match what was going on behind the scenes.

“Senator Christopher Dodd, the Co-Chairman of the DNC, denied that John Huang had 'done anything wrong here' during an appearance on Face the Nation on October 20, 1996, and said the DNC would make Huang available for questioning,” the report noted. “At the  time of Dodd's statement, the DNC had decided to relieve Mr. Huang of his fundraising duties and ask the FEC to investigate the donations Huang solicited."

Years after the fundraising scandal, Dodd found himself enmeshed in another ethics controversy at the end of his Senate tenure when he was identified as one of several political figures to be placed in a VIP mortgage program by Countrywide Mortgage. At the time the allegations surfaced in 2009, Dodd was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

A Senate Ethics Committee investigation ultimately concluded that while Dodd did not seek out preferential treatment from the lender, he failed to take action once learning he had been placed in a VIP program not available to everyday consumers and should have used better judgment.

"Once you became aware that your loans were in fact being handled through a program with the name 'V.I.P.,' that should have raised red flags for you," the Senate Ethics Committee's final letter to Dodd read. 

Just the News requested comment from Dodd at his Arnold and Porter law firm office by voice mail and also by email but has received no immediate response. 

Just the News Spotlight