Dem Group Hits GOP Counterpart for Taking Money From Steve Wynn, Despite Hiding Former Aide's Alleged Sexual Harassment

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio / Getty Images
January 31, 2019

The Democratic Governors Association repeatedly slammed the Republican Governors Association early last year for taking money from Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn, who was accused of sexual harassment, but the DGA failed to disclose to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's (D.) office that one of its former employees, who went on to work for the mayor, was fired after a female colleague accused him of sexual harassment.

Kevin O'Brien was a longtime aide to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D.), first working as his communications director when Bullock was attorney general in 2009. O'Brien then ran Bullock's gubernatorial campaign in 2012 before serving as the governor's deputy chief of staff the following year. In 2015, Bullock served a one-year term as chairman of the DGA, where O'Brien serve as his representative until the aide's quiet dismissal. A woman employed at the DGA accused O'Brien of sexually harassing her, the New York Times reported.

In January 2016, only weeks after getting fired by the DGA, O'Brien was hired by the de Blasio administration as the deputy chief of staff with an annual salary of $175,000. O'Brien was later promoted in early 2017 to serve as de Blasio's acting chief of staff, and his salary increased to $220,652, according to the Times. O'Brien went on to become a senior adviser to the mayor until last February, when he was forced to resign after two more women accused him of sexual harassment. O'Brien remained on the payroll until late March, however, and City Hall made no announcement about his departure

After the Times report was published this week, de Blasio slammed Bullock for not telling him that O'Brien had been fired from the DGA over allegations of sexual harassment.

"The whole thing is disgusting and it makes me tremendously angry that someone lied to us," de Blasio said. "It's personally frustrating. If we had known, we would not have hired him. It's as simple as that."

A little over two years after the DGA quietly fired O'Brien and did not alert his future employers, the Wall Street Journal reported that dozens of women came forward to discuss a pattern of sexual misconduct by Wynn. As a result of Wynn's financial ties to Republican groups, the DGA's communications director, Jared Leopold, who was hired at the same time as O'Brien at the DGA, started targeting the RGA on Twitter for not returning over $2 million from Wynn.

The DGA later slammed then-gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt in a June 2018 post on the website Medium for being "silent" after accusations against Wynn emerged.

"After horrific accusations against Steve Wynn forced Wynn out of his company, Adam Laxalt remained silent, declining to comment 'because of a potential conflict of interest over the attorney general's office.' This was despite every other gubernatorial candidate condemning Wynn," the post read.

The RGA in 2017 returned $100,000 that it received from Wynn, but had already spent the rest of the money. In addition to returning the $100,000, the RGA canceled its contract with Wynn Resorts, which is where the organization was planning its 2020 annual conference in Las Vegas.