The disgusting and dispiriting story of Ed Buck — the Democratic donor who made a habit of luring vulnerable gay Black men to his apartment, and drugging them to death — has been given a thorough and deep treatment by the brilliant Audible podcast White Smoke. In reviewing the podcast for our sister site, the Media Globe, I made the point that a strength of the podcast is its focus on the victims rather than the perpetrator. But here, it’s worth discussing Ed Buck’s start in Democratic politics, which began as a tireless advocate for the recall of Republican governor Evan Mecham.
One of the fascinating aspects of Buck’s public life was his uncanny ability to be portrayed as a bigger deal than his modest success warranted. Buck was consistently described as a “millionaire businessman.” But his actual record revealed a patchy and unimpressive record.
Edward Bernard Peter Buckmelter attended North High School; during his time at Phoenix College, he did a three month exchange stint in the former Yugoslavia. That led to a modest career as an extra and model in Europe and Japan. Buck returned in 1980 to Phoenix, where he joined a friend working as a bicycle messenger for Rapid Information Services. He bought the business from the owner, who was running it out of his one bedroom apartment, renamed it Gopher Courier and sold it for what Buck has characterized as “more than a million dollars profit.” Even if that’s true—we seem to have only Buck’s word for the details of this private transaction—it’s hardly generational wealth. At the time, he bought a house on a hill near what was then known by its politically incorrect moniker Squaw Peak (now Piestewa Peak). The value of that house: $280,000.
The same outsize attention has been paid to Buck’s political donations. Over and over, this deranged lunatic found himself in the room with major figures in the Democratic Party, even though, at a half million total dollars donated during his lifetime, he wasn’t exactly George Soros. As White Smoke host Patrick Strudwick points out, the scene of Buck’s crimes was the thousand dollar a month rent-controlled one bedroom apartment in West Hollywood where he’d lived for decades.
One of the annoying things about the way the media covers Democratic donors who wind up in trouble is they find two or three donations to Republicans and then refer to the donor as having “given to both parties.” That’s dishonest and disingenuous. As I pointed out in an article in Modern Consensus, disgraced founder of the crypto exchange FTX Sam Bankman-Fried was the the seventh largest donor of the entire 2022 cycle—just behind Mike Bloomberg ($41,262,025), George Soros ($176,752,713) and four others.
Of SBF’s nearly $39 million in donations, $35,872,000 went to what Open Secrets characterizes as “Liberals” while only $155,000 found its way to “Conservatives.” That means 99.57% went to liberals and .43% went to conservatives. Despite that 99.5%, newspapers wrote, to cite one example, “Bankman-Fried, 30, and his younger brother Gabriel donated lavishly to members of both political parties,”
The Arizona Republic has done a better job of correctly characterizing Buck as a Democratic donor—he ran for office as a Democrat and gave almost exclusively to Democrats. Including Kyrsten Sinema, who was one of the top recipients of Buck’s largesse. After winning her Senate seat in 2018, Sinema’s campaign quietly gave $33,800 to charity. But even the Republic couldn’t resist illustrating a story about Buck’s arrest with a photo of him attending an event for Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for California governor. The caption for the photo inaccurately characterizes what took place at the rally. “In this Sept. 22, 2010 file photo, Ed Buck makes a campaign appearance for Meg Whitman, then a Republican candidate for governor of California.”
In fact, Buck was there to heckle Whitman.
According to the New Jersey Star Ledger, Buck yelled at Whitman.
“What are you hiding?” shouted Ed Buck, in jeans and a light shirt in the front row of the 400-person event. “You’re looking like Arnold in a dress,” he said in a reference to outgoing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Whitman’s guest, then New Jersey governor Chris Christie, is reported to have gotten in Buck’s face and told him, “Hey, listen. You know what. You want to yell, yell at me. It’s people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you who are dividing this country. We’re here to bring this country together.”
The whole event was caught on video, which the NJGOP displays on YouTube to this day.
Christie’s bodyguards stepped between the two men. And Buck carried on drugging and abusing vulnerable men who fell under his sway.
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