What Do We Know About Democratic Donor Ed Buck?

A second man has been found dead at a West Hollywood home—here’s what we know about its resident
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On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that a body had been recovered from the West Hollywood home of Ed Buck. Fewer than two years ago, in July 2017, another man, Gemmel Moore, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in Buck’s home. Buck is frequently identified as a Democratic political donor and a prominent individual in L.A.’s LGBTQ community, but outside of that sphere, he may not be widely known. As the investigation into the second death continues, here’s what we know about Buck.

 

Born Edward Buckmelter in 1954 (he would change his name to Buck in the early 1980s), he grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. After college and a stint in Europe working occasionally as a model, he took a job as a bicycle messenger. When the messenger service went into bankruptcy just over a year after his job began, he pulled together $250,000 to buy the business. Five years later, he would sell the courier service for a significant profit, and start looking for ways to invest his windfall. His next step was to wade into politics.

The 1986 race for Arizona governor was bitterly contested. The state’s Republican party establishment, from Barry Goldwater to John McCain, lined up behind a candidate named Burton Barr. He was opposed in the Republican primary by a far-right conservative, Evan Mecham, who was known for his racist and homophobic rhetoric, and a platform that included rescinding the establishment of MLK Day as a paid day off for state employees. Mecham managed to carry the nomination and narrowly won the three-way general election.

Buck, who then identified as a Republican, decided to devote himself to a campaign to recall Mecham. He founded the Mecham Watchdog Committee which staged protests, printed anti-Mecham bumper stickers, and organized letter-writing and signature-gathering efforts to promote the recall effort. Eventually, Buck’s group had gathered enough verified signatures to trigger a recall election in May of 1988. Mecham was also brought before impeachment proceedings for campaign finance violations and obstruction of justice.

During this campaign, Buck, who had been openly gay from the age of 16, was a frequent target of homophobic vitriol by Mecham’s supporters. It was also made public during the campaign that Buck had been arrested for “public sexual indecency” in 1983–a charge he has said was trumped up by the cops–and that he was indicted for “attempting to obtain a narcotic through fraud or deceit” for attempting to pass a fake prescription for Percocet, as WeHoville reported.

By the time he arrived in West Hollywood in 1991, he was focusing his work on fundraising for LGBT rights organizations, animal rights causes, and Democratic political candidates. He ran for West Hollywood City Council in 2007, and while he didn’t win, he stayed involved with local politics. In 2011, he made a series of accusations about financial misconduct by City Council members and staff, but an investigation into the allegations was abandoned.

Over the years, Buck has donated thousands to politicians and activist groups, including his largest recent donation, a $10,400 contribution to newly elected Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema’s Getting Stuff Done PAC, made in February 2017, according to online records.

On the evening of July 27, 2017, authorities were called to Buck’s home. Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old black man and sex worker, died inside the apartment from an apparent meth overdose. After an investigation, the incident was ruled an accident and no charges against Buck were filed, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

Early Monday morning, the Sheriff’s Department returned to Buck’s home, responding to a 911 call. Officials identified the victim as a black man in his 50s. While law enforcement has not formally stated a cause of death, but Buck’s lawyer, Seymour Amster, has claimed it was a drug overdose.

“From what I know, it was an old friend who died of an accidental overdose, and unfortunately, we believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment,” Amster, told the Los Angeles Times today. “The person came over intoxicated.”

As word of a second death at Buck’s home has spread, community activists, including Jasmyne Cannick, have spoken out and called for a protest to take place at District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office on Wednesday afternoon. Cannick, a candidate for State Assembly, was inspired to run for public office in part by the handling of Moore’s death. She felt that, because Moore was poor, gay, and black, not enough was done to ensure justice was served.

With this second death, Buck’s name may be in the news for some time to come.

“It is suspicious that this has happened twice now,” Derrick Alfred of the Sheriff’s Department told KTLA. “We’re going to conduct a thorough investigation to determine if it is criminal in nature.”


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