Democratic Candidate Randy Bryce Cancels Fundraiser With Hugo Chavez Sympathizer Sean Penn

Evie Fordham and Jason Hopkins | Contributor
  • Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce scheduled a fundraising event to be headlined by actors Sean Penn and Mark Ruffalo.
  • Sean Penn has expressed laudatory opinions of former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez in the past, and Mark Ruffalo was a noted 9/11 “truther.”
  • When asked where he stood on the actors’ controversial statements, a spokeswoman for the campaign said the event has since been canceled.

Wisconsin Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce canceled a Sept. 29 fundraiser that was supposed to take place at the Malibu, California, home of left-leaning actor Sean Penn.

Bryce — the Democrat who is vying to capture Republican Speaker Paul Ryan’s longtime House seat — had originally sent out a fundraising invitation to be hosted by Sean Penn and included other Hollywood actors with a penchant for controversial rhetoric. The invitation, sent earlier in September, listed Mark Ruffalo, Chelsea Handler and Bradley Whitford. Attendance for the event did not appear to be cheap, with “sponsorship levels” ranging from $2,700 all the way to $10,000.

The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained a copy of the fundraising invitation.

Randy Bryce Fundraiser.

A picture of Randy Bryce’s now-cancelled fundraiser. Image by TheDCNF.

Penn is known for his leftist political activism, but his relationship with late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has drawn criticism since he first met with the socialist leader in August 2007. The actor met with Chavez multiple times, even referring to the dictator as a “friend I was blessed to have” when he passed away in 2013.

“Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion,” Penn said in a statement, according to the Guardian. “My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela.”

During a 2008 interview with David Letterman, Penn defended Chavez’s decision to shut down a popular television station in 2007.

“Since 1998, they had been encouraging the assassination of Chavez every day on that channel, something they would have gone to prison for here,” Penn said. “He just didn’t reup that license. Meanwhile, the idea that there’s no freedom of expression — I mean the loons on Fox News are broadcast there every day.”

The actor’s comments regarding Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, have also not aged well: “Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of vice president Maduro,” Penn said in 2013.

Under Maduro, nearly 90 percent of Venezuela’s citizens live in poverty, according to a university study cited by CNN.

Mark Ruffalo — another actor listed on Bryce’s invitation — has espoused his fair share of controversial comments.

Ruffalo received backlash after posting a petition for MSNBC to stop its “white conservative hiring spree” on Twitter in June 2017. He’s also known for being a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, stating in a 2007 video that he’s “completely behind reopening” an investigation into 9/11 terror attacks after he researched the 9/11 Truth movement.

When The Daily Caller News Foundation contacted Bryce’s campaign to inquire about the fundraiser and his thoughts on the actors’ past comments, a spokeswoman denied there being a fundraiser.

“There is no fundraiser on the 29, so he is not participating because this fundraiser does not exist,” Bryce’s communications director Julia Savel told TheDCNF.

However, when asked for clarification and presented with a picture of the invitation, Savel then said the event “has since been cancelled.” (RELATED: Democratic Congressional Candidate Randy Bryce’s Brother Makes Appearance In Campaign Ad — For His Opponent)

Bryan Steil is the Republican nominee in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District race. His campaign hit Bryce hard for the now-canceled fundraiser.

“Over 90 percent of Randy Bryce’s campaign has been funded by out of state liberals, so it’s no surprise that he planned to jet to California and rub elbows with out-of-touch celebrities. Randy Bryce continues to show that his far-left policies are too extreme for Southeast Wisconsin,” Steil spokesman Andrew Iverson stated to TheDCNF.

The nixed fundraiser comes after what has been a rocky road for the Wisconsin Democrat.

At the launch of his congressional bid in June 2017, Bryce was widely lauded by national Democrats as a candidate who had the potential to knock Ryan out of his long-held seat — Ryan has since announced his plans to retire from Congress and has endorsed Steil.

This excitement among progressives, however, has faded as parts of Bryce’s private life have come into the public eye.

It was revealed in November 2017 that Bryce had been delinquent on his child support payments for nearly two years — and did not meet his payments until two months after launching his campaign.

Upon hearing that story, a former girlfriend of Bryce’s came forward to reveal she had been trying to get Bryce to pay back a $1,776 debt he allegedly owed her for nearly 15 years. The woman had taken numerous steps — even obtaining a court order — to force Bryce to pay her back. He finally did after she approached the media in November 2017.

A much bigger part of Bryce’s past came back to haunt him several months later.

CNN broke the story in July that the Wisconsin candidate had been arrested a total of nine times throughout his life. Some of the arrests included drunk driving, property damage, theft and driving with a suspended license.

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