The Democratic National Committee is struggling to find new leadership after the party’s massive loss in November’s election, as virtually all of the top candidates for DNC chairman bring their own baggage from scandals or embarrassing moments that could tarnish the party’s brand.
One rising prospect, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman and DNC vice chairman Ray Buckley, will have to face down humiliating videos that show him making a series of sexist and off-color comments.
The party may have to turn to Buckley since Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) jumped quickly to seek the chairmanship, but several controversies have stunted his early momentum.
Photographs emerged in the Washington Free Beacon showing Ellison—a hardcore progressive and one of just two Muslim members of Congress—holding a variety of meetings with troubling characters potentially connected to terrorism in the Middle East. He also faced backlash for anti-Israel comments unearthed from his past. The Anti-Defamation League withdrew its endorsement of Ellison and Democratic mega-donor Haim Saban said Ellison as DNC chairman would be a “disaster” for a troubled party.
All eyes then turned to Howard Dean—himself a former DNC chairman, failed onetime presidential candidate, and former governor of Vermont. But Dean dropped out of the race just as the tides turned against Ellison, shifting attention to South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison—who has his own pail of problems—and now Buckley.
With no viable alternative, Democrats are surely worried that they will have to answer for the man in these tapes if he becomes the public face of their party.
The videos show Buckley in explicit conversations much more coarse than the 2005 Access Hollywood tape that became a focal point of Democrats’ argument that Donald Trump was not qualified for the presidency.
“Would like me to fuck you hard?” Buckley says in one video.
WATCH VIDEO NUMBER ONE OF RAY BUCKLEY:
“What would you like to do to my fucking tits, Buckley, huh?” a woman asks in another clip.
“Put little clips on them and pull you down the fucking street right by your little nipples screaming ‘ooh, ooh, my perky tits!’” he responds, his voice raising as the camera focuses on his face.
In another clip where the woman is holding the camera, Buckley unzips his fly as if he were about to whip out his penis. His conversation with people off-camera suggests he must do it because of a lost contest or wager.
“I have to do this,” Buckley says as the camera shifts down to his groin area where he begins to unbuckle his belt and unzip his fly. The edited clip ends before any genitals appear on camera.
WATCH VIDEO NUMBER TWO OF RAY BUCKLEY:
Interspersed throughout the videos are sections of Buckley’s MySpace profile social dating group “Gays In New Hampshire.” The group, according to the video, had at least two minor males in it who had listed themselves as 16-years-old.
A narrator who edited the video together shows viewers how from the state Democratic Party websites one could access his profile.
WATCH VIDEO NUMBER THREE OF RAY BUCKLEY:
Buckley confirmed the authenticity of the videos when asked about them via Twitter in 2014. “its from 30 yrs ago while repeating bad jokes while on vacation,” Buckley said. “I apologized 8 yrs ago.”
.@mboyle1 its from 30 yrs ago while repeating bad jokes while on vacation. I apologized 8 yrs ago. Still doesn't explain your behavior.
— Ray Buckley (@ChairmanBuckley) October 26, 2014
He did apologize eight years ago when they became an issue in his run for state Democratic Party chairman. The videos first surfaced after Buckley’s former longtime roommate New Hampshire state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt alleged Buckley possessed child pornography. Both Buckley and Vaillancourt are openly gay and were once partners. Vaillancourt was a Democrat but is now a Republican.
The allegations of child pornography possession prompted an investigation by then Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who has since been elected to the U.S. Senate. Buckley temporarily withdrew his bid for the state chairmanship. Ayotte said after her two-month investigation that she had “revealed absolutely no evidence” of wrongdoing by Buckley and cleared him entirely of allegations of illegality. Vaillancourt admitted, too, that he had no evidence to make the allegations.
In response, Buckley threw his hat back in the ring. But shortly thereafter, these videos became public, prompting then Democratic U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH) to withdraw his support for Buckley in the chairman race.
“I have just viewed a video on YouTube involving Ray Buckley, and found it highly disturbing,” Hodes said in a statement, according to the Concord Monitor. “The proper authorities should look into this matter to determine the best course of action. Under the circumstances I cannot support Ray Buckley for New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair.”
The videos were posted online by former Manchester Republican Committee chairman Joe Kelly Levasseur. They ended up failing to derail Buckley’s bid for the state Democratic chairmanship since, right before his election, Buckley wrote a public apology for his actions in the videos and for the actions of Vaillancourt.
“From Vaillancourt’s first letter, to the posting of videos on youtube — I apologize for it all,” Buckley wrote in the apology. “The spliced home movies and vacation videos were from 1985 through 1993. I acted immaturely and in a manner for which I am truly embarrassed.”
Buckley also apologized for joining the “Gays In New Hampshire” MySpace dating group and said he never intended to solicit any of that group’s other members for sex. “In addition, my membership on the MySpace group was intended to be as innocent as attending a Gay Pride rally,” Buckley wrote. “I do want to be very clear, I have never joined any group or website in search of any sexual activity nor will I ever.”
While these revelations have gotten their fair share of play on New Hampshire’s political scene, none of them have gone national—until now, as Buckley aims to rise to the most powerful position in the Democratic Party. Also, with the exception of Hodes, no national elected officials have given their thoughts or comments on the content of these videos—even though many top national Democrats regularly appear with Buckley at events in New Hampshire, given the state’s importance as a battleground general election state and early presidential primary state.
The Democratic Party’s national website touts Buckley as “a campaign manager for virtually every local and state office in New Hampshire, including Governor, U.S. Senate and Congress.”
Buckley is firmly in the crosshairs of national GOP figures, as his rough-and-tumble style has left a lot of Republicans with a bad taste after dealing with him in the past.
Jeff Bechdel, the communications director of top GOP firm America Rising, told Breitbart News:
Ray Buckley has been a political insider for decades and his history with rigging the system for party elites is exactly what voters rejected in this year’s election. On top of that, his tenure in New Hampshire gave Republicans the opportunity to recapture the governor’s office and state legislature and his tendency to find scandal can only be described as ‘Clinton-esque.’ He has no appeal to Americans across the country who are fed up with the status quo and his leadership would only further alienate the Democratic Party from voters that desperately want change.
The DNC chairmanship race presents a critical choice; the party is reeling from general election losses up and down the ballot, thanks in large part to its neglect of rural and heartland voters. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost in spectacular fashion, failing to build a coalition with affluent and college-educated voters. Republican candidate Donald J. Trump won over working-class Rust Belt voters, propelling him to a decisive 306-vote Electoral College victory, and Democrats failed to pick up a majority in the U.S. House or Senate.
Both former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and interim chair Donna Brazile came under heavy fire for emails, released by Wikileaks, showing they covertly aided Clinton’s campaign during a contentious primary with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Wasserman Schultz resigned over the scandal just as the party began its national convention.
As the party prepares for President Barack Obama to exit the White House, its bench for potential leadership is full of establishment insiders, like re-elected House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, which signals a doubling down on the strategy that led to the party’s electoral woes. Yet the few younger, fresher faces, like Ellison, show that the party’s only other option is to tack farther left and possibly become even more toxic to moderate voters.