LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Not long ago, Ed Buck was rubbing elbows with some of the Democratic party’s biggest stars – donating tens of thousands of dollars to various candidates and causes.
But now, Buck is under fire from community activists after a second gay black man – identified as 55-year-old Timothy Dean – died in his home in January. People gathered twice last month, chanting outside Buck’s West Hollywood apartment building.
Leticia Nixon – the mother of Gemmel Moore, who died at Buck’s apartment in July of 2017 of a drug overdose – spoke to the crowd.
“We shouldn’t even be here. There shouldn’t be a second victim,” she said.
Before the two deaths at his home, Buck was a well-known activist. Originally from Arizona, he reportedly made around $1 million selling a courier company and moved to West Hollywood in the early 90s.
He’s often referred to as a wealthy donor. CBSLA’s Tom Wait found campaign finance records for federal, state and local donations.
Buck’s biggest political investment was for more than $300,000 to his political action committee called Animal PAC. The organization says it was “formed to represent animal welfare interests throughout California.”
Buck was a well-known animal rights activist. But he has also donated thousands of dollars to various politicians. Many of the donations were made years before the deaths at his home. In many cases, the money was returned to Buck or donated to charities after Moore’s death.
Records dating back to 2009 showed Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was one of Buck’s high-profile recipients, receiving $1,400 in 2016. That money was returned about a month after Moore died.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey received $100 from Buck in 2012. Her campaign claims that money was given back in February of 2018.
He gave former California state Senate leader Kevin De Leon $18,700 over several campaigns. A former staffer says most of that money was donated in January of 2018 to a nonprofit that helps domestic violence survivors.
Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu took in $19,400 in state and federal donations from Buck. Lieu’s campaign says after the second death at Buck’s home, they donated the contributions they received to various charities.
Buck gave Adam Schiff, now chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, $2,700 in 2016. The campaign says the money went to the nonprofit Trevor Project.
West Hollywood Mayor John Duran received $12,500 from Buck in various campaigns in 2012 to 2016. Without offering specifics, he said most of the money was spent and some was donated to charity.
“Every candidate and politician sort of has to find their own way,” said California State University Northridge Professor Lawrence Becker.
Becker says it’s up to the candidates whether or not to return the money. Buck has broken no laws and the donations are perfectly legal.
“In a case where it’s a legal donation – and it just kind of looks bad or seems unethical or something – no, there’s no roadmap, but the best roadmap I would say is good judgement. It starts to become a lot more murky the further back in time you go,” he said.
Those donations are just a few of the many thousands of dollars Buck has dolled out over the years.