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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its funding of a ballot measure that would halt some major construction projects in Los Angeles for two years is under attack Thursday by some leaders in the LGBT community who are questioning if the spending falls within the mission of the foundation.
Through Sept. 30 of last year, the foundation, whose CEO is Michael Weinstein, had given more than $1.38 million in 2016 to the Coalition to Preserve L.A., which is supporting Measure S. The donations represented 96 percent of the money received by the coalition.
Campaign filings for the last quarter of 2016 are due to be reported to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission on Friday.
“Having been a patient, as well as having served as a board member of one of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s many community engagement organizations, I am ashamed of AHF’s — and more specifically, Michael Weinstein’s — abuse of funding intended for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS,” said Michael Eisman, a former board member of Impulse Group, an AIDS Healthcare Foundation organization. “This is another of a growing number of examples of Weinstein becoming more and more out of touch with the fight to end AIDS, and focusing the resources of AHF on an agenda that benefits himself over the wellbeing of his patients.”
The AHF sued the city in 2016 over its approval of two 28-story towers it approved to be built next to its headquarters, and some have questioned if Weinstein’s battle against development is personal.
“The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has spent millions and millions of dollars on a misguided effort that will hurt Los Angeles renters instead of fulfilling their organizational mission of helping people with HIV/AIDS,” said Torie Osborn, the former CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. “The money spent on unrelated political adventures could have built a beautiful apartment building for the people AHF serves. Instead, because Michael Weinstein didn’t like another building blocking the view from his office, that money is going to make Los Angeles unaffordable for them and hundreds of thousands of others.”
The LGBT leaders’ statements came in a news release from the Coalition to Protect L.A. Neighborhoods and Jobs, which is opposed to Measure S.
Weinstein defended the spending as health related and within the purview of the foundation’s mission.
“Our patients are becoming homeless and our employees have to travel longer and longer distances to get to work,” Weinstein told City News Service. “And this is our international headquarters and we try and be good corporate citizens.”
He also said, “We take an expansive view of health. We believe that the social determinants of health are equally important to the medial conditions patients suffer from.”
Weinstein also pointed out that Osborn worked as a deputy to former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and is currently a deputy for County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
“Torie is part of the downtown establishment, and the downtown establishment is opposed to this,” Weinstein said.
This is not the first time questions about the AHF’s political spending have been raised. Last year the foundation, which has a budget of over $1 billion, spent over $22 million funding two state ballot measures.
Both of the measures — one that would have required porn actors to wear condoms and another that sought to lower prescription drugs by requiring that state agencies pay no more for medicine that the federal Department of Veterans Affairs — failed on the November ballot.
“The common denominator between porn, the drug companies and developers is that there is greed, just rampant greed,” Weinstein said.
Measure S would halt any major projects for two years that require “spot zoning,” or special permission from the City Council, which is a common practice. Supporters of the measure say this dynamic creates cozy relationships between council members and developers.
The measure also calls on the City Council to draw up a new general plan during the two-year moratorium.
Opponents argue the measure would severely impact the local economy, erase thousands of jobs and restrict the supply of housing in the city.
“It is a disgrace how AHF squanders scarce public funding that is intended to aid and support communities affected by HIV,” said Eric Paul Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition and a commissioner on the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV. “I do not speak in my position as a LA County HIV Commissioner, but as a resident of LA County it is obvious: We can not allow housing developments to be banned in a city that has such high housing demands.”
–City News Service
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