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Ed Buck's Past: Drugs, Arrests, Political Machinations

Ed Buck

Ed Buck, whose home was the site of protests Monday night, is a prominent Democratic financier who had two black men die in his home.

Protesters demonstrated Monday night outside the home of Ed Buck, the gay Democratic donor whose West Hollywood apartment was the site of a man's death that morning.

This is the second death in his home in a year and a half -- Gemmel Moore, 26, who like the other man was African-American, died of a methamphetamine overdose in Buck's apartment in July 2017.

Several black men have alleged that Buck, who is white, has a fetish for shooting drugs into black men he picks up off the street or on hookup sites. Moore had written about Buck injecting him with dangerous drugs.

Buck said he was not responsible for Moore's death and did not supply him with drugs. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office found there was insufficient evidence to file charges against Moore in the case.

Activists are calling for a thorough investigation into the death of the second man, whose name has not been made public.

"This man has had two dead bodies in his house and he's still in his house," Los Angeles activist Jasmyne Cannick told demonstrators Monday night, according to The Daily Beast. "The fact that Ed Buck is a prominent Democratic donor should concern us all.

"He spreads his money around to get access and influence into these powerful circles and we need our party to say no, no longer. I'm out here just as a black person I'm outraged, as a Democrat I'm outraged.

"He needs to be arrested, he needs to be sent to county jail with no bail, he needs to be charged and then he needs to be convicted and sent to prison. Not just for the person who died today, but also for Gemmel Moore's death. It wasn't thoroughly investigated."

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is conducting a "secondary review" of the circumstances surrounding Moore's death as it also investigates the new case, the Beast reports.

Seymour Amster, Buck's attorney, said his client is cooperating in the investigation. The man who died Monday was an old friend of Buck's who was under the influence of some substance when he arrived at the apartment. "Ed was reluctant [to have him come over], but the friend was insistent, so Ed allowed the friend to come over," Amster told NBC News. Amster said the man began behaving strangely, so Buck called 911. The attorney has said the cause of death appears to be an accidental overdose.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center has also urged a comprehensive investigation of the case. "LGBT people have a considerable and urgent interest in a case that is so clearly linked to the health and safety of our community," said a statement released by the center, according to NBC. "The reports we have heard provide more questions than answers." The city of West Hollywood has requested a full investigation by the sheriff's department as well.

Buck, while known for his donations to Democratic politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown, is a former Republican whose history includes involvement in the effort to remove a racist, homophobic Arizona governor from office.

Buck was born in 1954 in Steubenville, Ohio, and moved with his family to Phoenix when he was 6. As a young man, he worked as a fashion model and film extra. In the early 1980s in Arizona, he joined a company called Rapid Information Services, which "provided driver's license information to insurance companies," according to a 2017 Wehoville profile of Buck. When the business went bankrupt, he bought it and renamed it Gopher Courier. He returned it to financial health and eventually sold it, pocketing a profit of more than $1 million, he once told an interviewer.

He then tried his hand at some other businesses and also became politically active. He was still a Republican, but Arizona's Republican Gov. Evan Mecham, who took office in 1987, had outraged members of both political parties. Mecham decreed that the state would not observe a holiday honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., saying it had been established illegally, and he also said King "didn't deserve" the holiday. That led some organizations to boycott the state.

He compounded his problems by referring to black children as "pickaninnies" and made a long list of other offensive comments. "Working women cause divorce, he said, and Jews should face up to the fact that the United States is a Christian nation," The Washington Post noted in its obituary of Mecham in 2008. "When a group began circulating recall petitions, Mr. Mecham said the effort stood little chance of success because its leaders were 'a band of homosexuals and a few dissident Democrats.' He said a group of visiting Japanese businessmen's 'eyes got round' when they heard about Arizona's plentiful golf courses."

Buck was one of the "homosexuals" seeking to remove Mecham from office, not just for his views but for alleged misuse of state funds. He was a leader in the campaign for a recall election, which ended up not being held because Mecham was booted by the Arizona legislature, which impeached and convicted him. He subsequently stood trial on charges of violating campaign finance laws "by allegedly concealing a $350,000 loan from his campaign fund to a developer," according to the Post, but he was acquitted.

Buck had some of his own troubles with the law in Arizona. In 1983 he was arrested on a charge of public sexual indecency resulting from an incident in an adult bookstore; he pleaded guilty and paid a fine, but the charge was ultimately dismissed, Wehoville reports. He also faced charges of attempting to obtain the painkiller Percocet with a fake prescription. That charge was dismissed on the condition that Buck undergo weekly drug tests for a year.

In the late 1980s he became a Democrat and started raising money for the party's candidates. He hosted a 1989 event in Arizona with U.S. Rep. Barney Frank as a guest. "I didn't leave the Republican Party, it left me," Buck wrote online in 2010. "I can remember Barry Goldwater saying 'out of the boardroom and out of the bedroom' when referring to the role of government. That's the GOP I was a proud member of."

He moved to West Hollywood in 1991, according to Wehoville. In addition to LGBTQ rights causes, he advocated for animal welfare, and led a successful campaign to get the city to prohibit the sale of fur products. He ran for City Council in 2011, and at the time accused several city officials of misusing public funds -- allegations that were "largely refuted," Wehoville notes.

Buck then mostly stayed out of the news until Moore's death, while continuing to donate to Democratic politicians. Sinema, the newly elected U.S. senator from Arizona and the first out bisexual senator, last year passed a $33,800 contribution from Buck to charity to distance herself from him. Others who have received funds from him include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of Congress from California, such as Ted Lieu and Pete Aguilar.

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