Victim advocates are slamming Harvard University, the Clinton Foundation and John Podesta’s think-tank for their silence over an ongoing investigation by New Jersey prosecutors for the brutal sexual assault that a woman alleges was committed by their donor, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss.
Wyss, who contributes millions to many high-profile liberal causes, is a financial donor to Harvard, the Clinton Foundation and Podesta’s Center for American Progress. Last fall, prosecutors in Morris Township, New Jersey, opened an investigation into an alleged brutal 2011 sexual assault of Jacqueline Long, then an employee of Wyss’ foundation.
No charges have been filed, but prosecutors did not respond to a DCNF inquiry in the last week about progress in the case.
Advocates for sexual victims criticized the total silence from each of these high-profile liberal institutions.
“The silence can actually send a loud scream to other survivors. It sounds like they are saying, ‘The money is more important than the survivor,'” Karen Baker told The Daily Caller News Foundation. She is the CEO of both the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. For decades, Wyss lived in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
“Saying nothing always sends a bad message,” added Kirsten Houser, the chief public affairs officer at the center. “That’s not the message that instills principles of prevention, of caring about the well-being of the full community.”
“Many are saying this is a societal issue with far reaching implications, and we want to see companies and other institutions more aggressively address this to take a stand,” Houser told TheDCNF in an interview. “We want to see them live by those priorities, and when people don’t, you can be risking the support of your base,” Houser said.
The Swiss billionaire uses his private Wyss Foundation — with total assets of nearly $2.2 billion — to spread his money around to large institutions and to liberal political groups, according to his Form 990 reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
In the 2016 election, Wyss also was the architect for a liberal $100 million “Democracy Program,” which sought to create a “surge of registration” to win future elections, according to a memo obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The billionaire has never become a U.S. citizen and remains a citizen of Switzerland.
Harvard accepted two Wyss gifts of $125 million each — in 2009 and 2013 — totaling $250 million. It led to the establishment of the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering. The institute continues to bear his name.
TheDCNF asked if the Harvard institute would distance itself from Wyss or temporarily take his name off until he is cleared of an alleged crime. Benjamin Boettner, the institutes’s spokesman replied, “That’s not going to happen.”
J. Robert Flores, the former administrator of the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which he led from 2002 to 2009, told TheDCNF he saw Harvard’s reaction as a classic response from an “insular” institution.
“Harvard is an insular community,” he said. “Your faculty, your donors, the companies that do business with Harvard. I think what you’ll see is a lot of secrecy at Harvard. You will see a tremendous amount of pressure to ‘go along’ with decisions that people have made to protect the institution.”
“What they’re showing right now by not taking any action is what you would expect from an insular community: ‘We don’t have to explain ourselves to anyone.’ The world will not allow you to do that anymore. Now, they have to explain themselves,” he said.
Flores is a former prosecutor with expertise in internet crime, child abuse and exploitation, and juvenile justice issues.
Matthew Vadum, the senior vice president of the conservative Capital Research Center, agreed with Flores.
“Harvard wants to hang onto the money and wants to keep the spigot open so it can get more money in the future,” he told TheDCNF. “I gather that’s why they’re not even interested in discussing Wyss’ behavior.”
Flores also made the connection to Harvard and former President Bill Clinton. “This is kind of like Bill Clinton 20 years ago where there was just an assumption: ‘The rules don’t apply to me.’ And I think Harvard is basically taking the same approach. They don’t apply to us.”
Students, faculty and alumni have expressed concern over Harvard’s dedication to confront sexual harassment and assault. Only this month, Harvard named a new director for its small Office for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. The director’s post had been vacant for nearly year and the office had been operating with about half of its allotted staffers, who are there to prevent and assist sexual assault victims.
The Clinton Foundation itself accepted a $5 million donation from Wyss in 2013 for its “Open Ceilings” project, which the foundation describes as an effort to “chart the path forward to accelerate full participation for women and girls in the 21st century.” The foundation did not respond to a DCNF inquiry about the status of Wyss and his gift.
Vadum adds that he is not surprised by the Clinton Foundation’s silence about Wyss. “The ‘hide under a rock’ Clinton strategy worked a lot of the time for them. I’m not surprised that they’re trying to blow smoke here,” he said.
The Center for American Progress, founded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential chairman John Podesta, also has a close relationship with the Swiss billionaire, whose net worth is estimated by Bloomberg at $6.85 billion. Podesta awarded Wyss a board seat at CAP, which he still enjoys today.
Over the years, CAP received at least $4 million in funds from Wyss. Podesta also served on the board of Wyss’s HJW Foundation from 2009 to 2013, according to his White House financial disclosure form. In 2012, before he joined the Obama White House as a “counselor to the president,” Podesta also revealed in his form he personally accepted $87,000 for delivering unspecified “consultation” services to Wyss and his foundation.
CAP and former Sen. Tom Daschle, the group’s current chairman of the board, did not reply to repeated DCNF inquiries about the status of Wyss on the group’s governing board. From 1995 to 2001, Daschle served as the Democrat’s Senate Majority Leader. The high-profile Democrat had to withdraw his name in 2009 as President Barack Obama’s proposed secretary of Health and Human Services after it was discovered he failed to pay $140,000 in taxes.
On its website, CAP claims to identify with women who have faced sexual harassment. Sexual harassment, the liberal think-tank states, “has persisted in workplaces across industries and occupations for decades. For years, victims have unfortunately stood on unsteady ground in an environment that has been too lax about and too dismissive of sexual harassment allegations.”
But in the Hansjorg Wyss case, neither the organization nor Daschle voiced support for the victim, publicly commented on the case or suggested any action pertaining to Wyss’ place on the board. They’ve simply remained silent.
Vadum, who has followed both CAP and Wyss, charged the group’s stand reeks of hypocrisy.
“They lecture us about how to behave,” he told TheDCNF in an interview. “They stress the finer, more esoteric points of ‘political correctness’ while at the same time, shaming all those who fail to adhere to those standards. You would think they would at least take it seriously with someone that close to their organization who’s accused of Wyss’ sexual improprieties.”
Flores added the CAP board has a duty to confront Wyss. “The board ought to confront Wyss and say, ‘Did you do this?’ And if you don’t answer the question fully for our satisfaction then we’ll take that to the full board, and we will ask to have you removed.’”
Wyss’s history of allegedly aberrant sexual behavior was cataloged by Ryan DiMaria, a previous attorney for Long, in a May 8, 2013, memo sent to Wyss’ lawyers and obtained by TheDCNF. “Ms. Long’s position is and will always be that she is suing for damages on account of the personal physical injuries and physical sickness she suffered literally at the hands of Mr. Wyss,” DiMaria charged.
“The sexual behavior that Mr. Wyss required Ms. Long to participate in ran the full gamut of rather perverse sex acts,” her lawyer wrote, graphically outlining eight sex acts Wyss allegedly forced Long to endure.
The billionaire’s lawyers conceded in an August 2015 filing before a Philadelphia court that they secured a private $1.5 million settlement with Long that was expected to keep her quiet. Wyss’ lawyers stated the agreement with Long “acknowledged that the agreement’s confidentiality was of the utmost importance and that without plaintiff’s unequivocal commitment to keep the settlement agreement and its terms confidential, defendant would not have entered into the agreement.”
The earlier settlement did not address wrongdoing, but it does not preclude authorities from independently bringing criminal charges.
In January, TheDCNF reported Morris Township prosecutors had opened a new case, “State vs. Hansjorg Wyss,” concerning the alleged brutal sexual assault by Wyss at the Governor Morris Inn in nearby Morristown, New Jersey.
The prosecutor’s document confirmed the receipt of sexual paraphernalia from Long, including a “purple vibrator.” She alleged in the complaint the device was used by Wyss as a weapon during the assault against her.
Vadum marveled about how the left uniformly went along with the silence about Wyss.
“He opens his checkbook to win friends and influence people. You’d think people on the left normally wouldn’t stand for that kind of thing publicly. But apparently, they do.”
Even before the series of #MeToo sex scandals hit politicians, Hollywood producers and corporate executives, many universities were ready to turn their backs against men who were accused of sexual improprieties. In 2014, four years before Bill Cosby’s April 2018 conviction on three counts of aggravated indecent assault but after the accusations had been initially lodged, Temple University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst forced the comedian to cut ties.
Long told TheDCNF she was pleased with the Cosby conviction.
“I felt renewed and strengthened by the vindication of Bill Cosby’s female victims, who waited so many years to finally and publicly confront another powerful and wealthy man, with how he had sexually exploited ad preyed upon them,” she said.
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