Feb 21, 2020
Michael Weinstein Funded Disinformation on SB 50,
the More HOMES Act, Without Disclosure
Illegal Spending by “The Koch Brothers of Health” Violates Democratic Principles
SACRAMENTO – Today California YIMBY filed a formal complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC) to investigate Michael Weinstein’s AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) for violating multiple state laws regarding political finance for his spending to oppose SB 50, the More HOMES Act. The act failed to advance from the state Senate in January.
According to the complaint, Weinstein ignored well-established state reporting requirements in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to oppose the bill, which was authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sought to boost the development of affordable housing near jobs and transit centers across the state.
“In a democracy, individuals and organizations can and should passionately advocate for their point of view — but we’re supposed to play by the same set of rules,” said Brian Hanlon, CEO of California YIMBY. “Those rules apply to Michael Weinstein as much as they apply to anyone. His violations are especially egregious since as a registered 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit, AHF is supposed to devote their resources to provide ‘medical care for those affected by HIV or AIDS,’ not to pursue political vendettas or pet political issues.”
In the complaint, California YIMBY alleges that AIDS Healthcare Foundation failed to report its spending for radio and social media advertisements, direct mail pieces, a website, and other activities attacking the legislation. Included are controversial and inaccurate mailers from Weinstein’s group that were assailed by the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, and other organizations as racist and offensive.
In recent years, AIDS Healthcare Foundation has established itself through its political disinformation campaigns, running an array of “dirty tricks” campaigns that deploy aggressive lobbying tactics, and undisclosed political spending to advance its secretive agenda. Weinstein has been described by national AIDS activists as “‘the Koch brothers of public health: a mastermind driven by ideology, accountable to no one, with bottomless funds and an agenda marked by financial opportunism and puritanical extremes;” his campaign spending at the state and local levels exceeds tens of millions of dollars in California.
“The AIDS Healthcare Foundation spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in pursuit of Weinstein’s crusade against affordable housing,” said Hanlon. “As a deep-pocketed and sophisticated political player in California, and a registered lobbyist employer under California law, AHF is aware of the requirements of California’s Political Reform Act — and they nonetheless failed to report these expenses.”
With an annual budget of $1.5 billion, Weinstein’s organization has grown into a powerful political and lobbying group for Weinstein’s pet causes with ample resources to ensure compliance with the law.
“Weinstein’s violations of the lobby disclosure provisions of the Political Reform Act appear to be an intentional attempt to deny the public vital information regarding the organization’s lobbying expenditures,” said Hanlon. “While we’re confident this is a violation of state law, we’re also disturbed by the fact that it goes against the spirit of charitable organizations, a cornerstone of American civil society. Rather than devote resources in accordance with their healthcare mission, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation chose to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars dishonestly attacking both SB 50 and state Senator Scott Wiener for authoring legislation to make California more affordable and inclusive. While it is Michael Weinstein’s right to oppose affordable home building, it is not his right to violate political finance law, and to spend charitable dollars for political purposes, possibly in violation of tax law.”
In its complaint, California YIMBY calls on the FPPC for a prompt investigation and enforcement action in order to ensure that the laws governing political spending are appropriate followed.
Read the full complaint here.