AIDS foundation criticized for political activity

LOS ANGELES — 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 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, has 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.

“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 well-being of his patients.”

The foundation 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 foundation’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 county HIV commissioner, but as a resident of L.A. County it is obvious: We can not allow housing developments to be banned in a city that has such high housing demands.”


1 comment

  1. Mary Ann Cherry Reply

    It’s such a petty point, but since you bring it up I’ll say that I really think if “Michael Weinstein didn’t like another building blocking the view from his office,” that he is more than capable of renting another office.

    What’s the big concern with AHF’s budget while you ignore city council’s use of public property for personal gain? Los Angeles is a healthy city, a desirable city, one that needs to catch up with its own progress. The developers have run the show and I have yet to hear opponents to Measure S argue that the city isn’t dense enough. Someone, please explain the city’s massive development and the continued growth of homeless camps. It simply does not make sense.

    And to your point about the need for housing, affordable housing (we are not even talking about low-income housing), I’m not understanding the argument that affordable housing is not a need for people with HIV. If it makes the city more habitable for others, is that a bad thing?

    Los Angeles can survive a simple two year moratorium on new building. They need to suspend doing business the way they’ve been doing business, because that simply does not work. The economics directs trades people to rehab the many marvelous older structures that need care. It is smart for the city to review their goals, their vision, rather than haphazardly throw buildings at a wall and see what sticks.

    I can’t be the only Los Angeles resident who would like to see more coverage on the need for and opposition to a review and a new general plan rather than split hairs with a successful social services agency that has been a fundamental part of Los Angeles for 30 years.


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