08 • NOVEMBER 30, 2018 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Bauman accusations roil Democrats after big wins Continued from Page 07
“handsy” at parties, as one gay person told the Los Angeles Blades, there were no official or registered complaints or leaked stories about Bauman during the 17 years he served as Chair of the LA County Democratic Party. Bauman, a registered nurse, started his political career at Stonewall Democratic Club where he grew the club into a political powerhouse helping elect local, state and national candidates. His behind-the-scenes strategic political acumen resulted in senior-level positions in state government, including serving as Senior Advisor and LA Director of office services for Speakers John A. Perez, Toni Atkins and Anthony Rendon; Senior Advisor to Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez; Senior Advisor to Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and when Garamendi served as Insurance Commissioner; Special Assistant to Gov. Gray Davis and Director of Davis’ LA Office. While some politicos complained about his gruff Bronx/Jewish style, he also served as a generous mentor to many and no credible complaint was leaked to the press or filed from a staffer or party-goer during this time. However, during Bauman’s unexpectedly heated race to become the first openly LGBT CDP chair in May 2017, a number of inaccurate accusations from the Ellis camp emerged. The worst was that he had engaged in “inappropriate behavior with 14- and 16-year-old boys,” an old but painful and effective trope used against LGBT people. “What they’re accusing me of is being a child predator! And I lost it. I started crying uncontrollably,” Bauman told the Los Angeles Blade (May 15, 2017). Then Bauman thought: “how many people are accused of things or are victims of abuse and they hide in shame and so it continues?” He fumed in an email. “This is despicable! This is not the Democratic Party! These are Trumpian tactics and it has to stop! I’m a pretty tough guy and I can take the attacks, lies, distortions, and mud that has been slung at me pretty well,” Bauman wrote. “But to accuse me of child abuse, especially of this nature, is beyond the pale and 100% unacceptable.” The Machiavellian rumor was apparently started by a gay Ellis supporter. Ellis denounced the tactic but references to the rumor have shown up in social media responses to the current allegations. It’s
Eric Bauman (on right) at event where Gov. Gray Davis (seated) signed domestic partnership bill Photo by Karen Ocamb
hard to un-ring a bell. Bauman seemed too politically savvy to cross lines of propriety. In Dec. 2011, in an unflattering LA Weekly story calling him the “L.A. Democratic Party Kingmaker,” the author describes Bauman’s arm-twisting as “machine politics at its finest.” To which Bauman replied: “I don’t make promises or ask people to do things in a quid pro quo format. That would be against the law. I’m way too high-profile, way too visible a guy to do that.” The Los Angeles Blade spoke with numerous gay and straight politicos familiar with Bauman and his decadeslong leadership in the Democratic Party. They requested anonymity for fear of being dragged into a controversy that might sully their own name or out of respect for the due-process investigation or not wanting to appear to attack the alleged victims. Two gay men independently said that years ago Bauman said hello with a lingering pat or quick grab of the butt at an event— but neither man considered the touch sexual harassment. They said Bauman never followed up with anything physical or with sexually explicit comments. Several people said they saw him drink but never saw him drunk. Others said he was often flirtatious, would give an unexpected shoulder rub and sometimes made lewd jokes and risqué gestures that made some
people uncomfortable—but never to the degree that he should be reported for sexual harassment. No one ever experienced or witnessed him commit the crime of sexual assault such as grabbing or groping. But there were notes of hesitation, too. “I don’t believe any of it,” one politico told the Los Angeles Blade. “Except Larimore-Hall is too smart to use the term ‘sexual assault’ unless he had something behind it.” “I take seriously any allegation brought forward by anyone who believes they have been caused pain,” Bauman said in a statement that did not include an abject denial. He announced the independent investigation “ensuring these individuals making the charges are treated with respect and free from any concerns of retaliation.” He added that he looks “forward to putting these allegations behind us and moving forward as unified Democrats.” Alex Gallardo-Rooker, another party vice chair, is serving as acting chairwoman during the investigation. The story grabbed national headlines but seemed to disappear as other splashier news moved center stage. And then came the Nov. 28 bombshell, with The Times interviews of 10 party staffers and political activists who claimed Bauman “made crude sexual comments and engaged in unwanted touching or physical intimidation in professional settings.”
“People just didn’t know how to speak up about it,” Allan Acevedo, an activist with California Young Democrats told The Times. “There was a sense of loyalty. Not just to him, but to any advancement that any LGBT person makes in terms of us having representation at the table.” “Eight current party staffers said that, while he was serving as chairman, Bauman would regularly make sexually explicit comments in the workplace to men and women, including remarks about sexual acts, his and other staffers’ genitalia, and being sexually attracted to staff members,” The Times reported, citing some accusers by name. “The eight staff members each said they also experienced or witnessed Bauman engaging in unwanted touching, particularly directed toward male staffers.” The California Democratic Party’s handbook defines prohibited behavior, including sexual harassment and assault, and prohibits the use of alcohol while at work. On Nov. 28, Bauman, 59, said he’s going to rehab. ”I deeply regret if my behavior has caused pain to any of the outstanding individuals with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. I appreciate the courage it took for these individuals to come forward to tell their stories,” Bauman said in a statement. “In the interest of allowing the CDP’s independent investigation to move forward, I do not wish to respond to any of the specific allegations. However, I will use the time I am on leave to immediately seek medical intervention to address serious, ongoing health issues and to begin treatment for what I now realize is an issue with alcohol.” What will the investigation determine? Was this a behind-the-scenes political coup by progressive purists who want to rid the CDP of the old guard? Are the allegations asserted by a new generation with internalized homophobia? Or might Bauman have been blind to his own bad behavior? In any event, there has been a coup—an overthrowing of the old gay cultural attitudes of physical and verbal coziness, which is unacceptable in today’s professional environment. “Leading the California Democratic Party to historic victories has been the honor of a lifetime, and I look forward to continuing this important work upon the conclusion of the investigation and when my health allows,” Bauman said in his statement.
Losangelesblade.com, Volume 2, Issue 39, November 30, 2018