California’s then-Attorney General Kamala D. Harris
announced felony pimping charges last year against the
two owners of Backpage.com — a classified-ad website
that is a hub for sex trafficking and prostitution,
one of the men cut a $10,000 check to House Minority
Pelosi’s super PAC.
Pelosi’s political action committee, House
Majority PAC, has resisted giving the money back, and
an aide toMrs.
Pelosisaid the California
Democrat knows nothing about the contribution.
uproar over sexual harassment that began with the
Harvey Weinstein scandal has intensified the scrutiny
of political contributions linked to Backpage, which
law enforcement officials say is the chief platform
for activities far worse than harassment, including
sexual slavery and child prostitution.
Pelosiisn’t the only Democrat
struggling to deal with the piles of cash that
Backpage’s owners spread around to candidates and
state Democratic parties over the years.
Ms. Harris, a California Democrat who is now a U.S.
senator, ducked the issue. Her office wouldn’t respond
to repeated emails about Backpage money going to House
Majority PAC and other Democratic organizations.
2010, the owners and their wives have shoveled about
$99,000 to candidates and about $95,000 to Democratic
parties in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, according
to federal campaign finance data collected by the
Center for Responsive Politics.
to mounting pressure, including a bipartisan Senate
investigation that found the owners knowingly sold ads
to pimps who coerced minors into prostitution,
Backpage in January closed down its adult services
websites, however, continue to be marketplaces for the
police last week arrested two men who were using
Backpage to run a sex trafficking ring after an
underage girl told police she was brought to the city
and put to work as a prostitute, with “dates” arranged
on the website.
June, a Chicago man was arrested after using Backpage
to sell a 16-year-old girl who was eventually killed
by a client.
stories of prostitution and sex trafficking linked to
Backpage are relatively commonplace across the
founders and controlling shareholders of Backpage,
Michael Lacey and James Larkin, and Backpage
executives and shareholders John Brunst and Scott
Spear, have made fortunes from the websites.
California alone, Backpage rakes in about $2.5 million
per month, according to charging documents in the
Larkin made the contribution to the House Majority PAC
in October 2016, a week after he and Mr. Lacey were
charged in California. A judge, citing federal law
that shields internet sites from most liability,
dropped the pimping charge in August. Related money
laundering charges are proceeding against the men.
spearheaded by Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican,
would tighten federal law to hold accountable websites
such as Backpage that host thinly disguised ads for
commercial sex and child prostitution. The bill is
expected to easily pass the Senate early next year.
is still the question of what to do about the Backpage
about the contribution last week, House Majority PAC
Executive Director Charlie Kelly said the money
already had been spent.
contribution from James Larkin was received and spent
during the 2016 election cycle. The allegations
against Larkin are reprehensible, and HMP will not
accept any future contributions from Larkin or his
associates at Backpage.com,” he said in a statement to
The Washington Times.
Pelosisaid she “had no role
in this contribution, [and] she did not solicit this
lion’s share of the contributions to state parties
since 2010 went to the Colorado Democratic Party,
despite the Backpage owners all residing in Arizona.
They handed over a total of $70,000 to the Colorado
party. All the donations were made in 2014.
gave $15,000 to the New Mexico Democratic Party in
Larkin last year made a single $10,000 contribution to
the Arizona Democratic Party, according to federal
official at the Colorado Democratic Party said they
were looking into the matter, but the party has been
dodging questions about the tainted contributions
since at least April.
Arizona and New Mexico parties did not respond to
questions about their plans for the Backpage money.
Arizona Democratic Party has been under increasing
pressure from its Republican counterpart to return the
money or donate it to an appropriate charity.
this year, an Arizona Democratic Party official gave
The Arizona Republic the same explanation now used byMrs.
Pelosi’s super PAC: “The money had already been
Republican Party spokesman Torunn Sinclair said the
excuse was “absurd and disgusting.”
obviously have the cash to return this dirty money;
they just don’t want to return it,” she said. “Arizona
Democrats, including [Congress members] Kyrsten
Sinema, Tom O’Halleran and Ann Kirkpatrick, need to
step up to the plate and tell them to donate the
Congress members also struggled to address the
Backpage money in their campaign coffers.
Kirkpatrick, who federal records show pocketed at
least $16,000 since 2010, finally rid herself of it in
September with a donation to the Arizona Coalition to
End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
O’Halleran also disposed of roughly $8,100.
Sinema received the most Backpage money by far.
Federal campaign records show that she took in $34,400
from the Backpage owners and their wives since 2010.
rid of it wasn’t easy.
pressure to return the money, Ms. Sinema in April
attempted to donated $10,000 to Friends of Public
Radio Arizona. But the nonprofit balked at the gift of
dirty money. Ms. Sinema ultimately sent all the
Backpage-linked donations to the Arizona Coalition to
End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
lawmakers, however, have resisted putting public
pressure on the Arizona Democratic Party to do the
Sinema dodged the question Thursday on Capitol Hill.
don’t you call my office to get an appointment? I’m on
my way to the train station right now. Have a great
weekend,” she said.
office did not respond to requests for an appointment
or comment about the state party keeping the Backpage