Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) quietly donated $33,800 to a charity last week in order to distance herself from campaign contributions from Ed Buck, a prominent Democratic donor who is under a cloud of questions following the 2017 drug overdose of a male escort in an apartment under Buck's name.
Although the apartment where 26-year-old Gemmel Moore was found is in California, Buck has a long history of political activism in Arizona, where he had previously run a campaign to oust former governor Evan Mecham while he was in office in 1987.
Moore died in Buck's West Hollywood apartment on July 27, 2017, and the coroner's report attributed the death to a methamphetamine overdose, according to the L.A. Times. The Times again cited the autopsy when saying the apartment was "littered with drug paraphernalia" and that paramedics "found Moore naked on a mattress in the living room with a "male pornography movie playing on the television," the report states.
The report also said the overdose was an accident, but the L.A. County Sheriff's office began a new investigation after relatives of Moore questioned whether the drugs were all self-administered.
Sinema found herself in a similar situation last year when she donated $53,400 to charity so as to distance herself from contributions from Michael Lacey and James Larkin, founders of Backpage.com. The website has been the focus of federal investigations into allegations that the website knowingly accepted ads which offered sex with underage girls.
The congresswoman, now in her fourth term, is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake.
A handful of California politicians have also returned donations from Buck, including U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, both Democrats.
Sinema's "campaign cash cleansing" was first reported by the Arizona Republic, which also noted that federal election records show Buck has donated "more than $150,000 since 2004" to Democratic campaigns and causes.
"We were saddened to hear that this young man lost his life, and we wish his family peace. While the investigation continues, we've donated the money to the UMOM New Day Center in Arizona," Sinema's campaign said in a statement last week.