Celebrities such as Girls creator Lena Dunham and Scandal star Kerry Washington have used their platforms to push back against a conservative effort to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood, which not only provides abortions but also contraception, mammograms, health consultations, and more. Then there's writer Daniel Handler—you likely know him by his pen name, Lemony Snicket—and his illustrator wife, Lisa Brown, who recently announced via twitter a $1 million donation to Planned Parenthood.
The couple's Twitter announcement came just a day before Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, testified on Capitol Hill about accusations by Republicans claiming that Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue.
Nice timing, right?
We've written a lot lately about wealthy writers engaged in philanthropy. It's not a profession one tends to associate with big-league giving, but like other stars in the entertainment and media worlds, writers have benefited from soaring compensation levels in what economists have called a "winner-take-all economy." A number have amassed sizeable fortunes; many are quite generous with their money.
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In Handler's case, he made a fortune authoring many children's biographies, and serving as narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. His wife Lisa Brown, meanwhile, is an illustrator and author. Handler is no stranger to philanthropy or politics. Since last decade, he's been involved with LitPAC, "a political action committee focused on raising funds for congressional candidates" which is also interested in getting more authors involved in the political process.
As well, Handler and Lisa have engaged in philanthropy, though so far, much of their giving has gone under the radar. Handler once told the New York Times that he made a lot of money "writing children’s books about terrible things happening to orphans, and this seems like such a crazy and possibly monstrous way of acquiring money that I give a lot of it away."
In an interesting musing on wealth and philanthropy, Handler described an incident when a man associated with a historic building in San Francisco asked him for five million dollars: "He has known my family forever. He watched me grow up. I had a crush on his daughter in fifth grade, but nothing came of it. He called me up and told me the historic building was collapsing and needed a great deal of money."
It's also worth mentioning that the couple has quietly supported Planned Parenthood in the past, at least going back to 2007. This time, in light of the circumstances, Handler and Lisa decided to make their philanthropy more public. As Lisa puts it, "My husband and I have supported Planned Parenthood for years, for obvious reasons: it’s a great organization that has provided top-quality health care for countless women and families in our lives. This year, Planned Parenthood has gone through a series of unfortunate events, and it felt right to make our support more public and more dramatic.”
With Planned Parenthood currently in the spotlight, perhaps more donations like this are down the line. And perhaps this $1 million gift is a sign of more public giving by Handler and Lisa.