After taking Backpage money, Nancy Pelosi needs to make things right

By: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce
December 28, 2017

At best, Nancy Pelosi’s October 2016 acceptance of a $10,000 check from James Larkin, a co-owner of Backpage.com, was extremely careless. At worst, she knew and didn’t care. Either way, it’s time for Pelosi to do the right thing and finally wash her hands of this dirty money.

Backpage.com has long been one of the most evil sites on the internet. For years, it knowingly facilitated prostitution and sex trafficking of children. Backpage was purposely filtering out certain words in web ads to help traffickers evade authorities. Now, as this has come to light, Backpage is facing increasing pressure from law enforcement agencies across the country.

In fact, just one week before donating to Pelosi’s Super PAC, Larkin was charged in California on conspiracy to commit pimping. Larkin still faces counts of money laundering, and is surely hoping Backpage’s $200,000 in contributions to Democrats will give him political protection. That’s why Pelosi’s refusal to unequivocally renounce Backpage by donating or returning this money is so troubling. There are many California victims’ rights groups that could do a lot of good with $10,000.

Because the truth is we’re still far from putting an end to this form of modern slavery. Despite some important progress, human trafficking is still considered the fastest-growing crime in the world. Tens of millions of lives have been devastated around the globe — including far too many right here in Southern California.

As representative to California’s 39th District, I’m proud to help lead the fight to protect our most vulnerable. In 2013, I launched a human trafficking advisory committee comprised of victims’ rights groups, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and community advocates to better share information and coordinate on solutions. Later that year, we held a field hearing at Cal State Fullerton for the public to hear directly from victims. And our work continues. Two months ago, we again hosted a training seminar for local hotel managers and owners to help them better prepare their staff to identify the signs of human trafficking and to report it.

Of course, each of us can play a role too. At airports, hotels and other transit hubs, human trafficking victims might lack clothing to match weather conditions, appear distressed and significantly younger than the individual they are traveling with. If you suspect someone is being trafficked, do not hesitate to call 911.

In the Capitol, I’m leveraging my role as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee to help empower our law enforcement agencies to stop these criminals cold in their tracks. I’m an original co-sponsor of H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017. This legislation, which recently moved one step closer to a vote on the House floor, provides prosecutors with new tools to bring online actors like Backpage who knowingly facilitate human and sex trafficking to justice.

Additionally, my committee earlier this month passed legislation I authored targeting forced labor profits — estimated at $150 billion annually — that are being laundered far too easily in this digital age. H.R. 2219, the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act, provides law enforcement new tools to cut off human traffickers from our banking system, and joins a series of bills my committee has passed to combat these horrific crimes.

Americans today are divided on many political issues. But human trafficking and sex trafficking shouldn’t be one of them. We should all be able to agree that more needs to be done to help end human trafficking. And we should all be able to agree that keeping money from child sex traffickers is wrong.

I hope Nancy Pelosi will choose to make things right.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Yorba Linda, represents the 39th Congressional District. 

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