Today, the Seattle Times reported that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray stands accused of buying sex from teenage gay prostitutes in the 1980s. A number of individuals who worked as prostitutes during that era have come forward to accuse him of these acts. At least one of them was a troubled teenager who was a crack addict, using sex to pay for his habit. If true, the charges would constitute both rape and pedophilia (though the statute of limitations has passed).
For a time, when Murray was in his 20s he worked at a Portland shelter for troubled children. If he was at the time a serial molester/predator that would’ve given him an opportunity to find numerous victims. He met two of his alleged victims at this facility. According to their accounts, Murray befriended them and even permitted one of them to live with him for a time in Seattle. But during the entire period he was “helping” them in various ways, he was also paying for sex with them. The Portland police investigated at least one of these relationships. But the case was dropped because the victim was homeless, and a drug addict with a criminal record, who did not make a presentable case as a victim.
Murray has denied the claims saying they are motivated by those seeking to destroy his political career. In actuality, he is the one who, if the claims are confirmed, engaged in the acts which may endanger his career. The fact that these acts are surfacing now is incidental.
Murray is considered a liberal mayor who made his mark initially by championing the gay marriage initiative in the Washington State Legislature. His record as mayor is more checkered. He has curried favor with two powerful local lobbies: the real estate industry, which is changing the face of the Seattle skyline with huge new skyscrapers; and the Israel Lobby, which provides millions of dollars in campaign funding for candidates like Murray.
The national pro-Israel advocacy group, StandWithUs, just announced that Murray would headline its annual community celebration/fundraising event next month at Town Hall. He has, in the past, been only too willing to ally with groups like StandWithUs to pinkwash on Israel’s behalf. Just this week, the Seattle LGBT commission hosted an IDF transgender officer, highlighting Israel’s supposedly gay-friendly society.
Last year, Murray traveled to Israel on the Israeli foreign ministry’s dime, to keynote an international conference, which also touted Israel as an enlightened and tolerant society regarding gay rights. Murray holds the Banner of Zion high and plays his role in this pinkwashing charade with pride. At the time, I wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times criticizing him for engaging in normalization and promoting Israel, despite the fact that it has a rather spotty record in terms of gay rights. Not to mention its many decades of oppression of Palestinians and violations of human rights and international law.
The lawyer defending Murray in this case is none other than Robert Sulkin, whose wife is a member of the SWU board of directors. Sulkin also was the lawyer who sued the Olympia Food Coop at SWU’s behest in a so far unsuccessful attempt to rescind a boycott of Israeli products approved by the membership. Turning to Sulkin, Murray has shown that it is the Israel Lobby which will try to rescue his political career. SWU sees Murray as a horse who can win future (election) races and is willing to put down large wagers on him.
Today’s developments put StandWithUs in a difficult position: does it wish to employ a tainted local politician on behalf of Brand Israel. Or is Murray’s sordid past too much for the Israel Lobby to withstand? Given Sulkin’s involvement it would be difficult for SWU to withdraw its invitation. But Sulkin might persuade Murray himself to withdraw. I tweeted this question to SWU director, Rob Jacobs, but he has not replied. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Israel itself is all too willing to embrace a menu of the world’s most brutal dictators, as long as they buy Israeli weapons and bring their Nations along in the international struggle for Israel. Philippine president and accused mass murderer, Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to visit Israel in the coming months, where he is expected to buy millions in Israeli weapons. He will find comradeship with fellow bigoted autocrat, Bibi Netanyahu. Israel has also been exceedingly cozy with African dictators like Paul Kagame, Robert Mugabe, and others. The lure of African natural resources and export markets is too tempting to turn down regardless of how heinous the personal atrocities of the despots.
Murray was a an establishment corporate Democrat. He represents consensus politics rather than true Progressive politics. There is a young African-American Black Lives Matter activist, Nikkita Oliver, who is running for mayor. Her campaign should get a huge boost from this development. Seattle would be much better off with a true Progressive as mayor. The local business lobbies will scurry to find a candidate to replace Murray if his career goes in the toilet. Likely, they will turn to members of the city council more centrist in their politics.
However, Seattle over the past few years has developed the true Progressive Movement with the election of Kshama Sawant and two other female Progressive council members. It’s my hope that we can do the same with the mayor’s office, turning Seattle into a true progressive city, which can rein in excessive development, honor our commitment to immigrants rights, serve as a haven for refugees, and embrace the diversity of our many ethnic communities. These are all things to which Ed Murray only paid lip service. In the future, let’s hope that we elect a mayor who will have the words, but will also have the deeds.