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When a billionaire venture capitalist and limited owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors said "nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs," the reaction reverberated worldwide — including in Wisconsin Democratic politics.
It turned out that Chamath Palihapitiya, the man who made those dismissive remarks about an oppressed Muslim minority in China, had contributed campaign cash to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and Alex Lasry, a leading contender in the U.S. Senate race.
On Tuesday, the state Democratic Party and Lasry announced they were giving up the money.
State Democrats said they were donating $10,000 to a charity supporting Uyghurs, while Lasry's campaign said it was returning a $2,900 donation.
In a statement, Devin Remiker, interim executive director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said: "In keeping with our commitment to democracy and human rights at home and abroad, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin applauds the Biden administration’s leadership in confronting China’s shameful and hideous treatment of its Uyghur population, and has made a $10,000 contribution to a charity supporting Uyghurs."
Lasry campaign spokesman Thad Nation said: "Alex strongly disagrees with these comments and has said on the record how awful these atrocities are and that the United States needs to do more."
Commenting on China's actions against Uyghurs, Lasry recently told the website Jewish Insider: “These are atrocities. It’s terrible, and we need to make sure that we’re able to call it out and bring more attention to the human rights violations that are happening in China, without a doubt.”
The campaign also said that in recent months Lasry sold corporate securities he held in Chinese-owned firms, Alibaba and Tenecent.
Lasry owns a stake of the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA team whose principal ownership group includes his father, Marc Lasry.
The controversy over Palihapitiya's remarks flared after the Saturday release of his "All-In" podcast, co-hosted by Jason Calacanis, a tech entrepreneur.
During the conversation, Calacanis praised President Joe Biden’s China policies, including the administration’s support for the Uyghurs, who have been subjected to human rights abuses.
"It's one of the stronger things he did, but it's not coming up in the polls," Calacanis said.
Palihapitiya responded: “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK. You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care — the rest of us don’t care.”
The Warriors distanced themselves from the comments and Palihapitiya sought to clarify the remarks.
Over the years, Palihapitiya has given significantly to candidates, including Biden, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
The conservative website Empower Wisconsin first reported on the donation to Lasry.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Dems, Alex Lasry give up donations from Chamath Palihapitiya