Democratic candidate for Congress Brian Flynn received the maximum campaign contribution from Emma Sulkowicz, the Mattress Girl who made questionable allegations of rape against a classmate at Columbia University.
Sulkowicz, whose art performances now include being tied up and beaten in front of onlookers to protest President Donald Trump, contributed the maximum $5,400 to Flynn's campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Kerry Sulkowicz, Emma's father who is a psychoanalyst in New York City, also donated the maximum $5,400.
Flynn's office said the candidate and the Sulkowicz family are close friends and that Flynn supports Sulkowicz's artistic expression.
"Brian has known Emma and her family for years," a spokesperson said. "Her parents are longtime friends. They all donated online as soon as they heard he was running."
"Like all artists, Brian supports Emma's freedom of expression," the spokesperson added.
Sulkowicz received notoriety after accusing a college friend of raping her in 2013, and using the accusation for her senior art thesis project by carrying a dorm mattress around campus. The height of her mattress fame came when she attended the State of the Union address in 2015 as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's guest.
Her allegations have since been called into question. The university cleared her accused classmate, Paul Nungesser, of any wrongdoing, and a police investigation did not produce any charges.
Nungesser recently received a settlement from Columbia for a Title IX lawsuit that argued the university mishandled the sexual assault allegations by allowing Sulkowicz to harass Nungesser with the mattress stunt. Sulkowicz even crossed her graduation stage carrying the mattress.
Sulkowicz is now "channeling her rage through BDSM."
"Her most recent piece, in which she was bound, berated, and hung from the ceiling, tackles the question of the value of art under the Trump administration," according to Vice.
Sulkowicz's performance at the Whitney Museum in New York City involves an older bearded man tying her up, beating her with his belt, and asking audience members if they want to slap her. She argues the performance is about an "intense questioning of art and politics."
"[I chose] to have a white man tie me up while wearing a business suit with a Whitney necktie, while I wear a Whitney ISP thong bikini," Sulkowicz said. The man is a "close friend" and trained dominatrix, she said.
Female viewers have been so concerned that they have requested a "trigger warning" before the performance.
Sulkowicz also showed her disdain for white male artists in the VICE interview, saying she is no fan of Jackson Pollock.
"White men have the privilege of entire institutions built for their paintings…. These paintings are very often abstract," she said. "You have people like Pollock splattering a bunch of shit and then saying it's art. It doesn't say anything political and in fact, that actual political statement it does say is: ‘I'm a white man and I can do whatever the fuck I want and make a ton of money off of it.'"
Sulkowicz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Flynn is a "lifelong progressive Democrat" running in the Democratic primary to represent New York's 19th district. He established himself as a legitimate contender in the race after donating $500,000 to his own campaign.
His campaign website claims that America has a "disturbing culture of misogyny."