Nearly half a dozen Democrats have distanced themselves from political mega-donor Ed Buck amid renewed investigation into his role in the death of a male escort last year.
The mayor of Los Angeles, two people running for Congress, three lawmakers and the Los Angeles district attorney have all quietly returned or donated their contributions from Buck, a 63-year-old West Hollywood local who has given over $500,000 to Democratic candidates and organizations over the years, according to Fox News.
The uber-generous patron is now the subject of a probe into the death of Gemmel Moore, 26, a male escort found dead of a drug overdose at Buck’s home in July. The home, according to the coroner’s report was filled with drug paraphernalia. From 24 syringes containing brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks to clear plastic bags with white powdery residue, according to Fox News.
Moore’s death was initially ruled accidental, but the case was reopened last August thanks to information found at the scene and provided to authorities by Moore’s family. The case remains open, as officials try to locate others who may have been involved with Buck as well.
“The death of Gemmel Moore is deeply tragic,” Emilie Simons, spokeswoman for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told Fox News in a statement. The congressman received $2,700 from Buck in 2016 but recently chose to donate the full amount to the Trevor Project, a non-profit providing suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth. Several others have followed suit.
California Sen. Kevin de Leon gave $19,700 in contributions from Buck to a nonprofit dedicated to helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse, Fox reported. News of the reopened case was also enough for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to return $1,400 given by the mega-donor last year. Meanwhile, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona donated the $5,400 she’d received from Buck to local organization helping homeless youth. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama also allegedly received donations from Buck.
“It’s horribly sad that this young man lost his life. We wish his family peace,” a spokesman from Sinema’s campaign told Fox. “While the investigation continues, we have donated the money to the Tumbleweed program at UMOM New Day Center.”
Among the claims being investigated are reports that Buck regularly invited Black male escorts to his home and paid them several hundred dollars to do drugs. A diary found among Moore’s possessions after his death described the mega-donor as someone who constantly insisted his guests partake in drugs.
“I honestly don’t know what to do,” a December journal entry read. “I’ve become addicted to drugs and the worst one at that. 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…”
“If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kill myself. But I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now,” Moore’s last entry, dated Dec. 3, stated.
The man’s family continues to search for answers into the death of their loved one. Relatives have since launched a website encouraging anyone with information on the case to come forward. An online petition has also circulated, calling for all Democrats who received donations from Buck to either return them or donate them to Moore’s family.
“There can be no conflict of interest in the quest for justice for Gemmel Moore and all of Ed Buck’s victims,” the petition reads. “Gemmel Moore’s life and the lives of all of Ed Buck’s victims should matter more than a political contribution.”
So far, the document has gained over 4,000 signatures.