46 SEPTEMBER 2018 • WWW.AAGLA.ORG APARTMENT AGE • SEPTEMBER 2018 47 WHO’S THE GUY BEHIND PROPOSITION 10, THE “SO- CALLED” AFFORDABLE HOUSING ACT? Michael Weinstein, President and Chairman of the Board of the A.I.D.S. Healthcare Foundation By Daniel Yukelson, Executive Director It’s another “Weinstein,” but this time its name is Michael Weinstein, the 65-year-old the President and Chairman of the Board of the A.I.D.S. Healthcare Foundation (“AHF”), a Los Angeles, California based non-profit with a $1.3 billion budget, according to Weinstein’s biography. According to the AHF website, the organization serves over 900,000 patients through some 320 treatment clinics in 39 countries worldwide and are in 14 U.S. states. It is this “Weinstein” that is the principal backer of Proposition 10, the November ballot initiative that seeks to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. If Weinstein prevails in November, the multifamily housing industry could “lose” vacancy decontrol and exemptions from rent control for single family homes, condominiums and newer construction. As part of his duties running AHF, Weinstein also directs the organization’s aggressive legal and political strategy. This agenda, often puzzling to his critics, has alienated government officials, community leaders and other A.I.D.S. activists who otherwise support AHF’s healthcare mission. Currently, AHF and/or Weinstein are named in over 200 lawsuits and in more than 100 in Los Angeles County alone. SO, WHO IS MICHAEL WEINSTEIN? The Early Years Weinstein was born in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York to a family of what has been described as “leftwing Jews,” according to New York Times profile from April 2017. By the time Weinstein was college-aged, Weinstein distributed leaflets with the headline “STOP A.I.D.S. CONCENTRATION CAMPS” and organized a torch lit march on LaRouche’s Silver Lake office. Mainstream gay activists abhorred Weinstein’s strong-arm tactics, fearing he might alienate suburban voters. But after the measure lost in a landslide, with 71 percent opposed, the L.A. Weekly named Weinstein “Best Young Activist.” In 1987, Weinstein founded A.I.D.S. Hospice Foundation with several close friends. In 1996, the name was changed to the A.I.D.S. Healthcare Foundation. Controversial Approach to Sex Education More than twenty-five years after the Proposition 64 battle, Weinstein continues to roll out shock and awe advertising when it came to garnering attention for his causes. The New York Times described the Weinstein driven AHF “safe sex” billboards in both U.S. cities and abroad as a “trolling approach to sexual health messaging.” The New York Times further noted: “In 2013, [Weinstein] put up signs in several cities with the image of a magma spewing volcano captioned, ‘SYPHILIS EXPLOSION.’ The following year, in South Central, he posted billboards with two black men spooning in bed alongside the leading question ‘Trust Him?’ Some ads have been humorous and topical — a sendup of the Netflix logo replaced with the mantra ‘Get Tested and Chill,’ a Bernie Sanders parody with the modified slogan ‘Feel the Burn?’ Others have hectored the public with reproachful questions: ‘Friends with Benefits?’ ‘Sexually Reckless?’ ‘Worried?’ One A.H.F. billboard managed to cause a national scandal in Uganda.” This profile of Weinstein noted that AHF. employs a “15 person in house creative agency to create its messaging. The expense is justified because the billboards are a marketing channel: They seek to stir dread in the libertine masses, not only to stem what Weinstein sees as a rising tide of promiscuity but also to drive traffic to his clinics.” Longtime A.I.D.S. Activists Cleve Jones was blunt about his feelings for Weinstein’s approach to sex education: “I am consistently angered and confused and disgusted by his he had declared himself both gay and a Marxist, more specifically, a Trotskyite. According to the same New York Times report: “In 1972, when Weinstein was 19, he traveled to California and joined Los Angeles’s gay activism scene. An outsider among both mainstream gays (for being a Marxist) and Marxists (for being gay), Weinstein decided to start his own group, which he called the Lavender and Red Union. The group eventually merged with a gay friendly Trotskyite organization in New York called the Spartacist League, which offered Weinstein a leadership position, requiring him to move back to the East Coast.” Weinstein would eventually split with the Spartacist League and return to California where he worked some odd jobs. It wasn’t long before Weinstein got back into political activism and became a leader in an organized fight over a statewide initiative, according to the Times. The campaign foreshadowed Weinstein’s use of over-the-top messaging and scare tactics. In 1986, the right-wing conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche introduced a ballot referendum in California that would have enabled employers to fire people with A.I.D.S. and empowered the government to quarantine them [Proposition 64]. Early polling suggested that LaRouche’s Proposition 64 initiative had broad support. Along with Brownlie and other friends, Weinstein started his own group to fight LaRouche’s proposition. In a move that anticipated his later shock marketing campaigns, prevention campaigns, which seem to encourage a stigma against homosexuality,” said Jones, who had the idea for the A.I.D.S. Memorial Quilt. “I don’t know of anyone who agrees with him or claims to understand what his motivation is.” Weinstein’s Political Agenda – A Waste of Precious A.I.D.S. Funding? Since 2012, Weinstein has used AHF funds, mainly profits from the organization’s pharmacy and clinic businesses, to fight a series of expensive political initiatives, a number of which have a tenuous connection to the group’s mission to fight A.I.D.S.. A growing number of Weinstein critics suggest that these political efforts are a waste of precious resources that should be used to combat the A.I.D.S. epidemic. Also, many of the committees Weinstein established to champion these political causes have been called out for unethical campaign tactics. Some examples: • In 2012, AHF bankrolled and passed an L.A. County ordinance mandating condom use in adult films. After the County ignored implementation of the law, AHF spent vast sums of money suing the county in court to require it enforce the law. • In 2016, AHF attempted to expand its influence by sponsoring two California statewide initiatives. Proposition 60 was statewide version of the “condoms in porn” measure. Proposition 61 was a measure to control drug prices by mandating that state agencies pay no more for prescription drugs that the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many observers doubted Prop 61’s efficacy. But notably, the campaign attracted support from Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Both measures failed. The final bill to AHF: $22 million. • In 2017, AHF was the driving force behind Measure S, an anti-development initiative in the City of Los Angeles that would have halted the city’s practice of rewriting planning rules for individual real estate projects. • In February 2017, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a letter to the Measure S committee, funded largely by AHF, demanding that it stop distributing Feature Story