Senate holds classifieds site in contempt

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday afternoon to hold classified ads site Backpage.com and its chief executive in contempt for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into sex trafficking.

The upper chamber voted, 96-0, to approve a resolution championed by Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears Fox's Bongino, MSNBC's McCaskill trade blows over Trump ride: 'You epic piece of garbage' MORE (D-Mo.) that holds the website and CEO Carl Ferrer in civil contempt.

It is the first such contempt resolution passed by the Senate in more than two decades, according to Portman’s office.


“Senator McCaskill and I gave Backpage every opportunity to cooperate in good faith with our investigation,” Portman said. “We carefully considered its objections to the subpoena and issued a 19-page opinion overruling those objections and directing Backpage to comply. It continued to stonewall.”

The company has refused to provide documents to the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Portman chairs, as part of an ongoing investigation into underage sex trafficking.

Ferrer also did not appear before the committee last year when he was asked to testify. His lawyers claimed he was out of the country at the time.

The resolution approved Thursday enforces the subpoena the subcommittee is using to attempt to compel Ferrer and Backpage to participate.

Portman has also raised the prospect in the past of asking the Justice Department to investigate Ferrer and the website for a criminal contempt violation, but he has recently appeared more interested in the civil route pursued Thursday.

The vote gives Portman a bipartisan victory to point to in his reelection race against Democrat Ted Strickland, Ohio's former governor.