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Porn Trade Group Says AIDS Healthcare Foundation Wrong To Spend Money On Ballot Initiatives

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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an organization that ostensibly works to provide "HIV prevention services, testing, and healthcare for HIV patients," has been getting awfully political lately. They recently backed the failed California Prop. 60, which would have required all adult performers in the state to wear condoms during sex. AHF also was the chief mover behind Proposition 61, the failed prescription drug ballot measure. And while it could be argued that condoms have something to do with HIV prevention—despite the fact that most of the performers it would have affected were firmly against the proposal—it gets murkier when it comes to AHF's support of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, or the money they spent campaigning against transit proposal Measure M. As such, the Free Speech Coalition, an adult industry trade association, has filed a complaint with the Treasurer Inspector General for Tax Administration, accusing the nonprofit of spending an excessive sum of money on ballot measures that have nothing to do with their mission.According to a release from FSC, AHF has spent over $20 million on ballot measures in the state in the last four years. AHF receives funding via government grants and sales at their pharmacies. Their pharmacy sales total about $800 million each year, and they do not pay taxes on that money, according to The Real Deal. In addition to the organization's multiple condoms-in-porn proposals, AHF president and founder Michael Weinstein also wrote the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which Angelenos will likely get the opportunity to vote on in March 2017. If it were to pass, the NII would put a two-year moratorium on any projects in L.A. that would require a change to zoning rules, many of which are out of date. (Please see the half-built Target that has been languishing at the corner of Sunset and Western for months now due to the fact that it was too tall for outdated zoning rules.) AHF has thrown $1.5 million at the NII campaign.

FSC director Eric Paul Leue is one person who wants to know, "What does battling real estate developers have to do with providing healthcare to HIV patients?" He told The Real Deal:

AHF has spent millions of their tax exempt dollars on political and lobbying purposes in excess of the typical limit. It would not surprise us if they manipulate their filing status to further avoid paying taxes and avoid detection for their excess political spending. As a longstanding HIV/LGBT activist and advocate, I cannot sit by and continue to watch this ongoing disrespect of my community and tax laws.

LA Weekly asked Weinstein the same question Leue is pondering. Weinstein responded, "We're a corporate citizen. This is our international headquarters. Why not? Why are we being asked the question and not all the business groups and the people who want to build anything they want? Why is it somehow less valid for us to be concerned about what happens in a community that we've invested in?"

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At one point in time, Leue, who was crowned Mr. LA Leather in 2014, appeared in advertisements partially paid for by AHF promoting HIV testing. However, he severed his ties with AHF after Weinstein called HIV prevention medication Truvada "a party drug."

FSC's complaint also accuses AHF of sending out mailers against their political opponents, including this one in which they accuse San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener of being in the pocket of pornographers for his opposition of Prop. 60.

Though nonprofits in California are not allowed to spend a substantial amount of money on lobbying, LA Weekly notes that because AHF takes in so much, the millions it has spent lobbying amounts to about 3 percent of its revenue. Arthur Rieman, an attorney with the Law Firm for Nonprofits, said that "insubstantial" amounts usually refers to 5 to 15 percent of a nonprofit's revenue. However, he also noted that the IRS or attorney general could crack down on a nonprofit that spent money on things that had little to do with their mission. Such a nonprofit could risk prosecution or losing its tax-exempt status.