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Sex, Drugs, and a Wealthy Donor: Pressure on Democrats to Return Campaign Money

Activists push for Democrats to return campaign donations from wealthy donor after suspicious death of 26 year old gay black male escort at his West Hollywood home sparks homicide investigation

Photo by Jasmyne Carrick

On July 27, a 26-year-old black man named Gemmel Moore died of a methamphetamine overdose in the West Hollywood, California home of prominent Democratic Party donor Ed Buck. Moore, who was gay, was working as an escort, wrote in his journal of his drug addiction, “I honestly don’t know what to do. I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that,” a December 2016 entry reads. “Ed Buck is the one to thank. He gave me my first injection of crystal meth it was very painful, but after all the troubles, I became addicted to the pain and fetish/fantasy.”

Photos by Jasmyne Carrick

Moore added in the entry, “My life is at an alltime high right now [and] I mean that from all ways. I ended up back at Buck house again and got manipulated into slamming again. I even went to the point where I was forced to doing 4 within a [two-day]  period. This man is crazy and [it’s] sad. Will I ever get help?”

His last entry, dated Dec. 3, 2016, read, “If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kill myself, but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.”

The revelation from Moore’s journal, in addition to other escorts speaking out against Buck on the Tuskegee-like experiments he conducted on them as part of a sexual fetish have incited California activists and Moore’s mother LaTisha Nixon to start a petition on August 31 to put pressure on all the Democrats who have received campaign donations from Buck to return them, including Los Angeles Attorney General Jackie Lacey, as the donation poses a conflict of interest in Lacey potentially filing charges against Buck. A petition on Color of Change was created to raise awareness of the issue and some Democrats have already returned donations from Buck in response to the latest revelations and the Homicide Detectives investigating the death after it was initially ruled an accident. Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) returned a donation of $250 she received from Buck, and the Stonewall Democratic Club Steering Committee asked Buck to resign.

“From those who denounce nearly anything for political expediency, the silence from our Democratic Party and the majority of our elected officials around Gemmel Moore’s death is profoundly disturbing,” said Kimberly Ellis, former candidate for California Democratic Party Chair in a statement in favor of the petition. “Yes, this is about race, sex workers, drug use, and power. And yes, it involves a well-connected Party donor. Remaining quiet only sends one message–Gemmel Moore’s life doesn’t matter.  Saying Black lives matter but not speaking out about this is political hypocrisy at its ugliest and demonstrates cowardice, not leadership.”

Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, a mail carrier in Texas, told a local ABC News affiliate on August 18, “I am looking for justice. For Ed Buck to be indicted. I want Ed Buck to go to jail for what he did to my son.” Activist Jasmyne Carrick added that several other gay black men were turned away from police stations, and told they were “tweaking” when they tried to file complaints against Buck.

Buck has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, California Governor Jerry Brown, California Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Two of Buck’s biggest recipients, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) received over $20,000 from Buck and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has received $30,000.

Ashlee Marie Preston, the trans activist who recently confronted Caitlyn Jenner in-person, echoed the calls for Democrats to return the campaign donations in a press release; “While many recipients may not have been aware of specifics around Ed Buck’s deadly experiments with disenfranchised black male youth, there has been an abundance of new evidence produced that confirms his racism, drug use and sexual exploitation of homeless young black men. To hang onto his contributions and avoid making a statement, establishes your allegiance to Ed Buck and sends the message that your values are in alignment with his. While we cannot bring Gemmel Moore back, we can turn this tragedy into triumph by using your returned contributions for legal fees in his family’s pursuit for justice.”

Ed Buck isn’t the only top Democratic Party donor who has recently ignited controversy and provoked calls for Democrats to return campaign donations.

On August 14, Dealbreaker first reported on a Facebook comment Loeb made in 2016 he compared teachers unions to the KKK. “If you truly believe that education is the dividing line (and I [concur]) then you must [recognize] and take up the fight against the teachers union, the biggest single force standing in the way of quality education and an organization that has done more to perpetuate poverty and discrimination against people of color than the KKK.”

On August 10, the New York Times reported that Loeb made a similar comparison on Facebook to New York State Senator and Democratic Party leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Loeb wrote, “thank God for Jeff Klein and those who stand for educational choice and support Charter funding that leads to economic mobility and opportunity for poor knack kids. Meanwhile, hypocrites like Stewart-Cousins who pay fealty to powerful union thugs and bosses do more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.” After his remarks were reported on by several outlets, Loeb deleted it and apologized.

Stewart-Cousins attended a rally organized by her supporters in Harlem on August 14, where several supporters called for Loeb’s resignation from the Board of Success Academy, a charter schools network.

The Alliance for the Quality Education of New York created a petition for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to return to Loeb over $170,000 in campaign donations he has received throughout his political career. “Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a highly respected elected official and the highest-ranking African-American female elected official in the history of the state. Loeb’s extremely offensive and racist attack on Senator Stewart-Cousins requires swift and dramatic action,” the petition states. “We demand that you immediately break all ties with Loeb, and refund every dollar you have ever received from him and from political action committees that he finances. It is imperative that you disassociate yourself entirely from DanLoeb and send a clear message that he has no place in public policy in New York State.”

New York City Controller Scott Stringer said at a rally on August 14 that he will be using a $4500 campaign donation he received from Loeb to donate to former City Councilman Robert Jackson’s bid to primary a “breakaway” Democrat, a group of Democrat State Senators who have organized to align with Republicans and shoot down any progressive legislation that is pushed through the senate. Assemblyman Nick Perry called on all Democrats to return the campaign donations or use it to make State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins leader of the State Senate.

Written by Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato

Michael Sainato is a freelance journalist based in Gainesville, Florida. His writing has been featured in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Denver Post, The Hill, Observer, Truth-Out, and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter @msainat1.

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Sex, Drugs, and a Wealthy Donor: Pressure on Democrats to Return Campaign Money