I almost decided to ignore the announcement by frequent gadfly candidate Drew Pritt that he was running for Congress, but something rather revolting came to my attention and I decided that I couldn’t let it go.
You see, Drew has been out of the state for awhile, operating under the name Caleb Pritt in Alaska, among other aliases and variations of a drag name. (A. Caleb Pritt, Andrew Pritt, Caleb Pritt, Drew Pritt, Diedra, Diedra Windsor Walker, Diedra Richards, Diedra Richards Ho Jenkins). While there, Pritt organized a fundraiser for Sgt. Latseen Benson, the son of AK Lt. Gov candidate Dianne Benson, who Pritt worked for at one point. You see, Benson had served his country in Iraq and lost both of his legs while doing so. You can see the video of Sgt. Benson’s story here. The fundraiser was supposed to raise money to make Benson’s house totally handicap accessible and raised $3,170 towards that cause to be donated to Homes For Our Troops (HOFT), but none of the money ever made it there.
The “Home for an Alaskan Hero” fundraiser was organized by Andrew Caleb Pritt, who was Diane Benson’s campaign manager for her 2010 run for lieutenant governor. Pritt has also written several articles as a contributor for Bent Alaska, and is well-known in Anchorage’s LGBT community under his drag persona Diedra Windsor Walker (and variations).
On Saturday, Benson posted a notice on her Facebook wall:
ALERT: Please be informed that Caleb Pritt, (aka, Andrew Pritt, Drew Pritt, A. Caleb Pritt, Diedra) is NOT AUTHORIZED TO RAISE MONEY ON BEHALF OF THE HOMES FOR OUR TROOPS OR ON BEHALF OF THE BENSON FAMILY. Please spread the word.
Several hours later, Pritt posted a lengthy note under his own Facebook profile, titled “The Dirt….You Asked For It, So Here You Go,” which he tagged to (that is, shared with) seven other people, including me. In it, Pritt attempted to explain what had happened with money from the fundraiser, stating in part,
First and foremost, money from the fundraiser was lost. I f*ed up by not reporting this. I was scared to report it and you know why, because I will tell you in a second. But money was lost and I thought I could quietly ﬁnd ways to make up for this. There would be no drama, no embarassment, and the most important thing, the vet would get his money. But in that process and trying to buy time, to keep things quiet, it makes it look like I made off with the money.
Pritt deleted the note from his Facebook profile sometime Sunday morning.
Pritt’s attempts at an explanation have been met with skepticism. On Sunday, Facebook profiles of his many acquaintances and friends (or former friends) in Anchorage’s LGBTQA community — particularly of people who had participated in or donated to the fundraiser — abounded with anger, outrage, and feelings of betrayal. By Sunday afternoon Pritt had deleted Facebook accounts under both his and his drag persona’s name.
To get an idea how bad Pritt was spinning to get out of this one, well, here’s a first hand account:
Caleb’s story about what happened to the money has been shifting and changing not just with Diane and Tony, but with others (including me) as well. However, I didn’t know how bad it was until Diane called me and told me Caleb wasn’t even speaking to them anymore. That is when I started to investigate as well and here is what we came up with:
1) Caleb claimed (to me) that he wasn’t going to have anything to do with the money from the fundraiser. After talking to someone who helped count the money, I discovered that was incorrect.
2) Caleb claimed to have sent a check “right before Coronation” to “Homes For Our Troops” and a few of us kept talking to them to find out where it was. It turns out he never sent it…he cashed it. (I have a scanned-in copy of the cashed check with Caleb’s endorsement on it.)
3) Caleb requested of at least one person who wrote a check for a won auction item that they make the check out to “Caleb Pritt.” (I now have a scanned copy of that check as well.)
4) On two occasions last week, I practically begged Caleb to come clean with me if he had a problem or needed help. I told him that as a recovering alcoholic of 26 years, I had either seen it, done it or heard about it. I told him I’d stand by him if he was able to be honest right that minute. Both times, he stuck to his story…that he had sent the check. That story didn’t change until AFTER he was caught.
5) This seems to be a pattern of behavior for him. When Caleb was working early in the summer for a political candidate, he used the candidate’s personal credit card to buy a Go Daddy website for the campaign. When the candidate got the bill, it turned out that Caleb spent an additional $700.00 for his own personal use. The candidate fired him and kept Caleb’s confidence, thinking it was a one-time deal..
When the police got involved, Pritt fled Alaska and came back to Arkansas, and is, almost unbelievably, jumping into the public eye with another quixotic run for public office. On his facebook page, Pritt states:
Pritt is outspoken and as such has made enemies for his outspokeness. He knows what its like to have people spread gossip, rumours, lies, accusations and believes this toughens and prepares him for service in a U.S. Congress already deadlocked by partisan bickering.
To which I will only add a quote from Mrs. Benson:
“It’s bad enough to have it happen at all,” says Benson. “But to have it happen with someone you thought you knew and to have it happen where they are using your child’s injuries to bait people to contribute is beyond the slap in the face.”
You know what they say about the wheels of justice. Hopefully, the Bensons will be able to get some closure on this at some point in the future. It shouldn’t be too hard for the legal system to catch up with Mr. Pritt, considering he’s now flaunting where he is.
Update: Looks like Pritt may have pulled the plug on the campaign in less than 24 hours. The facebook page seems to be gone, but who knows, he might just be laying low for a bit hoping this will blow over. Not on my watch it won’t.