CLOUD COOKOOLAND—Wow! It's getting so that you can't open the L.A. Times (or Google News) without seeing yet another headline about AIDS Healthcare Foundation's (AHF) latest foray into politics—activities that increasingly appear to be in violation of the organization's tax-exempt status.
What's also becoming increasingly clear is that AHF president Michael Weinstein has a (if you'll forgive the expression) major hard-on for the adult industry, the latest iteration of which was his call yesterday for the City of Los Angeles to withdraw from its contract with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) and to form its own separate health department, despite the fact that to do so would likely cost the city millions if not tens of millions of dollars—dollars which the city is sorely lacking.
Forming its own health department would force the city to lay off even more city workers, including teachers, police and firefighters, and to close more courtrooms and lay off their staffs, than it already has in its latest budget crunch—but AHF has no problem with forcing them to do so, for no apparent reason other than Weinstein's distress that even with the passage of Measure B, L.A. County isn't doing enough to drive the adult industry out of business.
See, as AVN reported last week, despite the fact that the LACDPH has yet to form a division within the department to handle inspections of adult sets to make sure everyone is wearing hazmat suits while having sex, nor has it yet hired any additional inspectors to handle such inspections once the division is up and running, a couple of the department's investigation managers had the temerity to tell attorney Michael Fattorosi, when his client, "Porno Dan" Leal, was applying for one of the first county health permits, that, "They will not be reviewing scenes; they will not be sitting around watching porn. They made it very clear to us, they've made it very clear to their boss that they have no interest in watching porn as part of their job. They made it clear that they're not going to be watching the sex scenes."
What that undoubtedly meant to Weinstein is that despite having spent more than $4 million that his organization could better have used to provide HIV testing and other health services to LA County's poorer communities, but instead spent on signature-gatherers-for-hire to push through two anti-industry laws, AHF wasn't seeing sufficient "bang for its buck." First, a requirement that any adult company wishing to obtain a shooting permit from FilmLA must promise to use condoms and other barrier protections became nearly impossible to enforce when the City Administrative Officer couldn't find any city agency willing to do the "condom inspections." Then AHF began yet another petition drive, this time to force the county to require adult producers to obtain "public health permits" in order to shoot anywhere in the county, and if a company violated the terms of the permit, it could be barred from producing adult movies ever again—and Weinstein undoubtedly took the investigation managers' admonitions to mean that the county too would find it difficult to convince its own inspection team, much less anyone else they might employ, to watch sex scenes being performed to check for condom and other barrier use.
One can only wonder how much money, promises of support and/or other perks AHF promised to Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) to convince him to sponsor Assembly Bill (AB) 332, a measure that would require hazmat suits during sex scenes shot anywhere in the state!
Of course, there is another possible reason why AHF wants the city to form its own health department: Back on August 16, 2012, L.A. County Auditor-Controller Wendy L. Wantanabe issued a report to the County Board of Supervisors charging that AHF overbilled the County Health Department's Division of HIV and STD Programs (DHSP) by $1,731,175 for providing services and medications to STD-infected patients who didn't qualify for county funds, and also billed DHSP more than $21,000 for "unallowable earthquake and flood insurance costs" and other "unsupported expenditures," all in violation of its contracts with the county. AHF has filed a lawsuit against the county, claiming that the county falsified its audit findings.
Perhaps it was that investigative work by Wantanabe's office that led Weinstein, in AHF's press release advocating for a city health department, to charge that LACDPH suffered from a "lack of professional leadership and accountability" that "has led to rampant cronyism and a repeated refusal to adhere to standing state and federal laws." (Needless to say, the press release was short on any information that might let the public know just what "rampant cronyism" was allegedly taking place at LACDPH, and which "standing state and federal laws" it was failing to adhere to—but it wouldn't be much of a stretch to suggest that AHF might be talking about the state health code, which already mandates that condoms, rubber gloves, face shields and even hazmat suits be used during sex scenes.)
As one might expect, AHF's alleged overbilling caused the county to retaliate against AHF, according to the press release AHF disseminated regarding its lawsuit against the county—but if the city had its own health department, perhaps staffed by AHF supporters like Dr. Peter Kerndt and Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, Weinstein could easily assume that taxpayer dollars could once again flow into AHF's coffers!
Weinstein claims that the costs associated with setting up and operating a City Department of Public Health would "be derived from current fees paid to the County of Los Angeles for the County's enforcement of public health laws in the City of Los Angeles. The ordinance also would allow for future revenue to be generated by collections of fees associated with the regulation and enforcement of the Public Health Code."
And what "fees associated with the regulation and enforcement of the Public Health Code" might those be? Well, considering that the county estimated that the cost for an adult production company to obtain a Public Health Permit from the county could be as much as $60,000 per two-year permit, and that a city health department could easily charge that amount or more in addition to the fees paid to the county—see, just because the city might form its own health department doesn't mean that Measure B's fees would no longer apply—AHF's new plan could easily go a long way toward driving the adult industry out of California altogether.
So with AHF having been involved in so much political activity over the past three-plus years, beginning with its petition to CalOSHA to change the state health code to mandate condom use during sex scenes, to its pro bono (free) representation of Diana "Desi Foxx" Grandmason in her lawsuit against AIM, to its city and county ballot measure petitions, to its advocacy of AB 332, and now to its impending campaign to force the city to form its own incredibly duplicative and expensive health department, one has to wonder how this tax-exempt organization has managed not to have its exemption pulled by the Internal Revenue Service?
See, the federal tax statute in question, 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(3), states in pertinent part that it exempts from taxation "Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes... no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h))." Now, there's no question that AHF has not only carried on propaganda but has clearly attempted to influence legislation. But the question then becomes, has it also violated the terms of subsection (h) by either "mak[ing] lobbying expenditures in excess of the lobbying ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year," or "mak[ing] grass roots expenditures in excess of the grass roots ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year"?
We aren't privy to AHF's tax returns, so we have no idea what its annual "lobbying ceiling" or "grassroots ceiling" amounts are, but considering how much time and effort—and money—AHF has put into creating, filing and defending its CalOSHA petition, creating, gathering signatures for, promoting and filing its city and county mandatory barrier protection (so-called "condom") measures, its current and future support of Assemblymember Hall's AB 332 bill, and its creation, impending signature-gathering, promotion and defense of its city health department bill, we have to wonder if it's not the IRS that is suffering from a "lack of professional leadership and accountability"?
But on a more basic level, two things have now (if there was really ever any doubt) become abundantly clear:
1) Michael Weinstein and his cronies hate the adult entertainment industry with a fiery passion, in large part because the industry has had the temerity to challenge Weinstein's ego edict that people who have sex in movies must wear condoms, rubber gloves, goggles and all the other paraphernalia, despite the fact that there hasn't been a single on-set transmission of HIV anywhere in the country in over eight years, and that the actual non-HIV STD rates of performers in the industry is on a par with the STD infection rates of your average 20-something Los Angeles saloon patron; and,
2) Weinstein and his crew don't actually give a flying fuck about the health of adult industry actors and actresses, but rather, holding all these press conferences and protest demonstrations and promoting the gathering of signatures for his ballot measures and buttonholing politicians to support them is simply a way for AHF to get more donations to fund some of the actually decent treatment and prevention work the organization does in the various communities it serves—and also to help fund the periodic lawsuits AHF files against drug companies that produce and market anti-retroviral drugs.
But considering both of the above factors, one further thing is clear: As long as Weinstein's ego continues to be bruised by the adult industry's refusal to kowtow to his demands, and as long as he can generate donations from unsuspecting citizens through his bleating about how unsafe the industry is, and how his organization, though the city and county ballot measures, would ride herd over them if only given the chance, he's not going to stop coming at us. And as long as his cost/benefit analysis holds—that is, as long as his expenditures for all this political activity doesn't exceed the amount of the donations he gains from all this publicity—the adult industry is not likely to see an end to the horseshit that AHF will continue to throw at us, all in the name of "saving" us from the boogeyman of their phony HIV/STD "crisis."
And what that means for adult producers is that they're going to have to step up to the plate with contributions to Vivid Entertainment, Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Measure B, and with contributions to Free Speech Coalition for its leadership in coordinating not only the fight against Measure B, but against the 2257 recordkeeping and labeling laws, "obscenity" laws, anti-adult zoning laws and the attempted control of the U.S. government by political conservatives and religious fundamentalists whose aim is to keep all sex within (hetero) marriage, under the covers and in the dark ... and no touching yourself even when nobody's looking!
Or it can move to Outer Mongolia, which is about the only place on earth that Weinstein and his asshole crew aren't likely to follow.
The choice is yours.