Less than a year before President Joe Biden nominated Rahm Emanuel to be Ambassador to Japan, the president received over $100,000 in campaign donations from the disgraced Chicago mayor’s brother, Ariel Emanuel, the wealthy powerful CEO of William Morris Endeavor talent agency in Beverly Hills, California.
Biden wasn’t the only recipient of Ariel Emanuel’s largesse. A Crusader analysis of campaign donations filed with the Federal Elections Commission shows that over the years, Ariel Emanuel gave thousands of dollars to 10 Democratic senators who will decide whether to confirm his brother as the next Ambassador to Japan. Many received donations from Ariel Emanuel as recently as last year.
These senators represent states across the country, including Arizona, California, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio and New Hampshire.
One of them is New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, the only Black senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who joined Republicans in voting in favor of Rahm Emanuel’s nomination.
Ariel Emanuel over the years also gave nearly $18,000 to then-California Senator Kamala Harris, who as vice president will cast the deciding vote— should the Senate end up deadlocked over Rahm Emanuel’s confirmation. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a longtime ally of Rahm Emanuel who supports his nomination, received a total of $5,600 from his brother in 2019 and 2020.
Federal campaign records show that other prominent politicians who support Rahm Emanuel’s nomination also received donations from his brother in 2020. They include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, both of whom respectively received $2,800 and $2,000 in 2020.
The campaign records show that Ariel Emanuel also gave campaign donations to Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff less than a month before their historic runoff victories in the red state.
But Ariel Emanuel’s largest contribution was given to President Biden. On November 2, 2020, days before Biden defeated incumbent Republican Donald Trump in the General Election, campaign records show that Ariel Emanuel gave Biden a $97,200 donation to his victory fund and $2,800 to the Biden for President campaign fund.
Six months earlier, Ariel Emanuel gave Biden $2,800 on May 5, as he gained momentum in the Democratic Presidential Primary. When Biden served as Vice President under President Barack Obama, Ariel Emanuel gave him $5,200. These donations total $102,800, far more than any of Ariel Emanuel’s other recipients.
Nearly one month after receiving the hefty $97,200 campaign donation, Biden as president-elect was considering Rahm Emanuel as U.S. Secretary of Transportation. That position eventually went to former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
In 2018, Ariel Emanuel gave a $12,700 campaign donation to Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada. That same year, he gave a $10,000 campaign donation to Senator Claire Conner McCaskill of Missouri.
Since 2016, Kamala Harris received a total of $16,800 in campaign donations from Ariel Emanuel. Approximately $7,600 went to Harris’ presidential campaign fund, Kamala Harris for the People. On May 12, 2016, Harris received a $10,000 campaign donation from Ariel Emanuel to her separate victory fund account.
In 2013, Cory Booker, who enjoys close ties to Rahm Emanuel, received a $5,200 campaign donation on June 20, 2013, as he ran to replace longtime New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who had died weeks earlier.
That year, Rahm Emanuel and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop planned to hold a campaign rally on September 20 for Booker. Rahm Emanuel cancelled after a mass shooting at a South Side park in Chicago left 13 people wounded, including a 3-year-old boy.
To manage his 2013 Senate campaign, Booker hired Addisu Demissie, who was the field director for Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral campaign in 2010. He also worked for Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 election.
On February 27, 2013, Rahm Emanuel and Booker, then-Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, participated in a forum together on the challenges of urban education reform during the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Education Summit at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Both have been known to support charter schools, which has had a devastating impact on public school districts throughout the country.
At a CNN town hall meeting during his Democratic presidential campaign in 2019, Senator Booker drew praise from Rahm Emanuel after he quoted a Hebrew scripture from the Torah, which he studied while at Oxford University.
“I actually think your Yiddish was pretty good,” Emanuel, the son of a Hebrew-speaking Israeli immigrant, told Booker. “I’ll get you into the synagogue. You’re just going to have to pay for the High Holidays,” joked Emanuel.
Booker responded, “I’m ready for the Dvar Torah this week and any synagogue that welcomes me to come speak, I’m ready.”
Like many Democratic senators who received campaign donations from Ariel Emanuel, Booker has been publicly silent on whether he supports the Ambassadorship nomination of Rahm Emanuel, who in 2014 campaigned in Chicago’s Black community while his administration suppressed the video that showed Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
Booker, as the only Black senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, did not attend the hearing or appear virtually to ask Rahm Emanuel questions.
During the confirmation hearings, it was learned that McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, did not know her son was shot 16 times until she was notified by a funeral home in Chicago.
Of the 11 Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts were the only two to vote against the nomination.
That nomination now goes to the full Senate, where it is expected to pass. Vice President Kamala Harris, as the nation’s first Black president of the Senate, will cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie. As Biden’s vice president, she will likely vote in favor of Rahm Emanuel’s nomination.
Senator Dick Durbin, who along with Senator Tammy Duckworth, endorsed Rahm Emanuel the same day President Biden nominated him on August 20 this year. Durbin introduced his friend during the confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Duckworth never received any donations from Ariel Emanuel, but campaign records show that since 2019, Durbin received at least $11,200 from Ariel Emanuel. That includes a $5,600 donation to Durbin’s victory fund on June 27, 2019, and a $2,800 donation on November 2, 2020, days after Durbin was elected to a fifth term. Campaign records also show that Rahm Emanuel himself gave Durbin $1,000 donations in 1999 and 2001.
Since 2002, Ariel Emanuel gave $6,200 to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. That includes two donations on November 4, 2020, totaling $5,200.
Ariel Emanuel had also given $2,800 campaign donations to freshman Senators Warnock and Ossoff on December 17, 2020, before their January 4 successful runoff elections, which gave Democrats control of the Senate. Warnock and Ossoff have been silent on whether they will vote to confirm Rahm Emanuel as Ambassador to Japan.
Two officials who have publicly endorsed Rahm Emanuel’s nomination, House Speaker and Congressman Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black member of Congress, also took campaign donations from Ariel Emanuel. Pelosi received a $2,800 donation on November 2, 2020, and Clyburn received a $2,000 donation on the same day.
Campaign records also show Ariel Emanuel on the same day gave a $1,500 donation to California Congresswoman Karen Bass while she served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Born in Wilmette, Illinois, on Chicago’s North Shore in 1961, Ariel “Ari” Emanuel, 60, is Rahm Emanuel’s younger brother. He currently serves as the CEO of the William Morris Endeavor Agency (WME), the oldest operating talent agency in the world. Listed on federal campaign records, the agency bills itself as a global leader with top clients in sports, entertainment, media and fashion. On its website, the agency counts Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe among its biggest clients.
In 2020, WME’s total revenues were 3.5 billion, but that figure could have been even higher had the coronavirus pandemic not affected the entire media and entertainment sector. A week ago, Endeavor reportedly beat Wall Street forecasts in this year’s third-quarter forecast as it generated $1.39 billion and a net income of $63.6 million.
In 2014, WME managed Oprah Winfrey’s Live Your Best Life Weekend, an eight-city tour that aimed to teach guests how to reach their greatest potential.