Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.) announced Tuesday afternoon she will donate campaign contributions she has received from multimillionaire and political financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of child-sex trafficking.
“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,” Plaskett, a Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday. “All my contributions have passed that test.”
Plaskett plans to donate the full amount of Epstein’s contributions to groups throughout the Virgin Islands that work with women and children. They include the Women’s Coalition on St. Croix and the Family Resource Center on St. Thomas. Plaskett has already reached out to the organizations, she said.
Plaskett appears to be the first lawmaker to return or donate campaign contributions received from Epstein. In 2018, Epstein donated the maximum amount of $2,700 to Plaskett. He donated $2,700 two separate times in 2016, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Epstein was arrested by federal authorities Saturday on child sex trafficking charges. On Monday he was charged with sexually abusing underage girls. He pleaded not guilty.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge in Florida of soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14-years-old. He served 13 months before serving a year of probation.
“I knew what his past was and it was my understanding that he was operating above board from then on,” Plaskett told USVI News Tuesday during an on-camera interview in her Washington, D.C. office. “Looking at the indictment and the allegations in this indictment, I was very disturbed by them. Rather than give him the money back, I felt it was more important to pay it forward.”
Plaskett believes more Virgin Island lawmakers have accepted campaign contributions from the convicted sex offender. However, she declined to identify who, but suggested the funds may have come from either Epstein himself or 501c4 organizations connected to him.
“I know that there are Virgin Islands elected officials who have taken money from him,” she said during the on-camera interview. “I just happened to be the person who reports my contributions.”
Epstein is known for supporting Democratic candidates over the years. The financier owns a private island in the Virgin Islands.
“I want it to be clear that I in no way support the allegations and have confidence in the Southern District of New York to investigate and prosecute the matter,” Plaskett added in the statement.