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What Can the Harkhams Buy for $250,000?

The Harkhams don’t often engage with the community or the press.  In the past two years, we have not found a single instance of Dan or Sammy publicly addressing the Cinefamily implosion — or their roles in it (other than the unsigned 2017 Board statements).

The Harkhams do, however, engage politically.  Public records, court filings, and press accounts describe a family that not only has strong views, but has demonstrated a willingness to use money and power in service of those views.  This first installment on the political life of the Harkhams will analyze the family’s donations to politicians and to political action committees (PACs). 

Using publicly-available government data, we identified 165 Harkham political donations from 1979 through 2019, totaling $252,164.49 [1] — the equivalent of over $6,000 in family political giving every year. Within the world of political donors, this would seem to place the Harkhams squarely in the top one percent—if not higher. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, only 0.47% of Americans make $200 or more in political contributions in a year.

The spike in GOP giving was so huge we needed to use a logarithmic scale for the y-axis!

Over two-thirds (69%) of these resources benefitted Republican candidates or the Republican Party. Less than a quarter (23%) of support went to Democrats. The balance went to PACs focused on either business issues or Jewish/Israeli issues (more on this in a future post).

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Over time, Harkham political dollars have increasingly flowed to Republicans. In the 1980s, the Harkhams overwhelmingly favored Democrats, but donations throughout the 1990s were spread more evenly. By the aughts, however, Democrats were out of favor, and Republicans were on the rise; over $90,000 of Harkham money went to Republicans in the 2007-2008 cycle alone. With a notable exception (more below), support for Democrats has all but tapered off.

Uri Harkham—Dan and Sammy’s father, and the owner of the Silent Movie Theater—has given the lion’s share (86%) of this money. Uri has been successful in fashion and real estate; according to a CRP analysis, his Harkham Industries was the single largest clothing manufacturer whose political donations went exclusively to Republicans in the year studied. CRP wrote:

Those jeans in your closet from Los Angeles-based Guess? Inc. are made by a company that overwhelmingly supports Democratic candidates. But that trendy Harkham blouse you’re wearing was produced by Republican backers.

Sammy Harkham may be bucking the family trend, if symbolically. In early 2017, Sammy began making regular contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Federal records indicate that every month, Sammy donates one dollar. Since the 2016 election, Sammy’s largesse comes to nearly $30—approximately one one-hundredth of one percent of total Harkham giving to date.

Public records indicate that Dan Harkham is a registered Republican, while Sammy has Declined to State.

At the time of publication, the Harkhams had not yet responded to a request for comment.

[1] L.A. City Ethics Commission, L.A. County Registrar-Recorder, California Secretary of State, Federal Elections Commission. Donors with last (or business) name Harkham in L.A. County. Raw data table here; full data and methodology available on request.