The Washington Times - Thursday, January 4, 2018
political action committee connected to House Minority
Leader Nancy Pelosi has finally bowed to the sexual
misconduct scandal sweeping the country, belatedly
returning a $10,000 contribution made by a founder of
Backpage.com, a classified-ad website that is a hub
for sexual exploitation and human trafficking of women
House Majority PAC’s chief told The Washington Times
just three weeks ago that the 2016 donation had
already been spent and that it was impossible to give
House Majority PAC President Alixandria Lapp, hoping
to escape a growing controversy over keeping the cash
for so long, said in a letter to the editor in a
California newspaper this week that the money had been
donated to a sexual assault prevention center in
Bones, CEO of Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and
Domestic Violence, said her organization has not
received the money.
received word that we would be receiving a donation
from House Majority PAC on December 29th, but nothing
has been received at this time,” she said.
of political contributions linked to Backpage
intensified amid the uproar over sexual harassment
that began with the Harvey Weinstein scandal in
Hollywood and spread to Capitol Hill.
a Dec. 17 report, The Times highlighted the Backpage
contribution to Mrs. Pelosi’s super PAC, three state
Democratic parties and several Arizona Democrats in
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
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 coerce minors into prostitution, Backpage
a year ago closed its adult services sections.
website, however, continues to be a marketplace for
the sex trade.
police last month 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 about Backpage are relatively commonplace
across the country.
Lapp’s letter to the editor was in response to an
op-ed in the same paper by Rep. Edward R. Royce,
California Republican, who called on Mrs. Pelosi to
renounce the contribution.
time for Pelosi to do the right thing and finally wash
her hands of this dirty money,” he wrote in The Orange
Lapp insisted that Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat,
had nothing to do with soliciting money from the
Backpage owner or the recent decision to dispose of
the tainted cash. She noted that it would violate
federal law for an elected official to direct the
actions of a super PAC.
Pelosi’s chief of staff, Drew Hammill, made the same
Pelosi was not involved or aware of this donation when
it was made. Despite the inaccurate assertions of the
Washington Times, Leader Pelosi has no control over
what funds this PAC accepts nor can she order the PAC
to return donations,” he said in an email to The
Majority PAC followed the lead of the lawmakers who
previously gave the money to the Arizona Coalition to
End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
founders and controlling shareholders of Backpage,
Michael Lacey and James Larkin, live in Arizona and
were responsible for much of the contributions.
executives and shareholders John Brunst and Scott
Spear and their wives also made scores of political
four men have made a fortune from the website. In
California alone, Backpage rakes in about $2.5 million
per month, according to court records.
getting rid of the Backpage cash in their campaign
coffers, Democratic lawmakers still refuse to call on
the state parties to give up their share of the money.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris, a California Democrat who as
state attorney general brought felony pimping charges
against Mr. Lacey and Mr. Larkin in 2016, refused
Thursday to address their political contributions.
Larkin gave the $10,000 to House Majority PAC just a
week after Ms. Harris announced the charges against
him and his business partner in October 2016.
judge dropped the pimping charge in August, citing
federal law that shields internet sites from most
liability. 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 this year.
majority of the contributions to state parties since
2010 went to the Colorado Democratic Party, despite
the Arizona residency of the Backpage owners. They
handed over a total of $70,000 to the Colorado party,
all 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
of the three state parties responded Thursday to The
Times’ questions about their plans for the Backpage