A political action committee that is backed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) took funds from the co-owner of a website that is linked to underage prostitution.
The House Majority PAC, an Alexandria, Virginia-based Super PAC created in 2011 to "answer the barrage of GOP outside spending" and help Democrats regain seats in the House of Representatives, accepted a $10,000 contribution last year from James Larkin, the co-owner of the Backpage.com, a website linked to underage trafficking and prostitution.
Larkin, along with Michael G. Lacey, were co-owners of the scandal-plagued Backpage when legal troubles began to mount against the site for accepting prostitution advertisements that included postings for sex with underage girls.
The duo began stepping up their political contributions after the site came under fire for its ads and have since donated more than $160,0000 to Democrats in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, the Arizona Republic reported.
In recent years, Larkin has also provided contributions to the Arizona State Democratic Executive Committee, the Colorado Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of New Mexico, and two separate donations to Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.).
The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that David Garcia, who is currently running for governor in Arizona against Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, also received money from Lacey. Following the report, Garcia announced that the $2,000 contribution would be given to youth homelessness and a group that works with survivors of sex trafficking.
A study of Backpage in 2012 conducted by Arizona State University and the Phoenix Police Department discovered that almost 80 percent of the advertisements posted to the site involved prostitution. In Phoenix alone, more than 900 ads for prostitution were found, including ads for underage girls.
The National Association of Attorneys General called on Congress in July 2013 to amend federal law to hold companies such as Backpage accountable for their actions.
In May 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to hold companies accountable that knowingly post ads for commercial sex acts involving minors. Rep. Ann Wagner (R., Mo.), the bill's co-sponsor, named Backpage as one of the "vehicles for advertising the victims of the child sex trade to the world."
The U.S. Senate later passed a resolution in March 2016 holding Backpage in civil contempt of Congress after ignoring a subpoena to turn over documents detailing what the site was doing to deal with trafficking in its ads.
Carl Ferrer, the chief executive of Backpage, was arrested following a three-year investigation in October 2016 over the underage prostitution allegations. Arrest warrants were issued against Larkin and Lacey, who were described as "controlling shareholders" of the site.
The group initially said they had no control over the prostitution ads. Despite this claim, internal emails showed that the managers edited advertisements and were more cautious when "law enforcement might be closely monitoring."
The House Majority PAC did not return a request for comment on the donation by press time.