Guess the donation well dried up after AB 1576 was defeated...
Posted Nov 07th, 2014 02:19 PM by Mark Kernes
LOS ANGELES—It's a variation on an old joke, but never more appropriate than right now. Question: "How can you tell when AHF President Michael Weinstein is lying?" Answer: "His lips are moving." And moving is what they did plenty of during AIDS Healthcare Foundation's press conference to announce the formation of a committee ("For Adult Industry Responsibility," or "FAIR") whose job it will be to hire contractors to gather signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would force anyone shooting explicit adult content in the state to use not only condoms, but as the CalOSHA regulation currently reads, latex gloves, dental dams, goggles and face shields as well.
Of course, just a couple of months ago, after the defeat of the AHF-sponsored AB 1576, Weinstein released the statement, "Regardless of whether AB 1576 became law this year, condom use already is—and has been—the law in California under existing Cal/OSHA authority." In other words, Weinstein admitted that AB 1576 was entirely unnecessary—and yet his non-profit organization spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pushing the bill through committees of both chambers of the legislature.
Moreover, an AHF press release from September 9 stated, "Despite the fact that Assembly Bill 1576, Isadore Hall’s bill to require condoms in all adult films made in California, failed to get out of the Senate in Sacramento this year, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s latest fine to an adult film industry production company for bareback filming serves as a reminder to the industry that condom use in adult film production already is—and remains—the law." [Emphasis added.] Again, an admission that not only AHF's latest bill—Hall, after all, was acting merely as Weinstein's mouthpiece—was useless, but so were its previous attempts to force barriers on performers, such as AB 332, Measure B and the LA City ballot initiative.
So it was hardly a surprise that Weinstein opened today's press conference by claiming, "It is now 10 years that we've been working on this issue, and we've made a great deal of progress." He went on to tout the success of both his city and county initiatives—while failing to mention that 10 years ago, in 2004, when then-Assemblymember Paul Koretz held public hearings on performer Darren James' transmission of HIV to several adult actresses, Weinstein's view at that time, as summarized in a report issued by Koretz's office, was that "there are thousands of HIV infections occurring all over the country and the world and yet the media and Legislature are now focused on the handful of infections that have recently occurred in the porn industry" and that "AIM may be best suited to deliver HIV testing and prevention services to the porn community rather than other HIV related organizations like AIDS Healthcare Foundation." So, call this Weinstein Big Lie #1—a particularly egregious one considering the fact that when AIM's Dr. Sharon Mitchell refused to kowtow to Weinstein's demands, he helped orchestrate the lawsuits that eventually put AIM out of business.
Weinstein Big Lie #2 came after his recitation of the existing laws AHF has pushed through the City and County of Los Angeles, claiming that "as a result, some of the largest companies have switched to condoms only." Of course, Wicked Pictures had mandated condoms well before either the city or county measure, so those other "largest companies" that Weinstein's claiming credit for are exactly two: Axel Braun Productions and Immoral Productions.
Weinstein's next point was to claim that FedOSHA's standards regarding bloodborne pathogens mirrors CalOSHA's, and that "as it stands today, there is a requirement that condoms be used in the making of adult films, and as clear evidence of that are the many citations and fines that have been levied by CalOSHA against the adult film industry."
Right; as far as CalOSHA is concerned, condoms and other barrier protections are the law—so why then is there a need for even more legislation on the subject? (More on this question later, because first, it's time for...)
Weinstein Big Lie #3 is, ironically enough, his claim that, "One of the things we are confronting as we continue to pursue this campaign is the fact that there's the 'big lie' technique as employed by pornographers, meaning if you keep repeating the same lie all over and over again, it becomes the truth, and so to be clear, it is the law in the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, the state of California and across this country that there must be barrier protection in the making of adult film."
You should know, Mikey! Indeed, Weinstein might have said, "This big ballot initiative campaign we're launching, for which we will spend hundreds of thousands if not millions more of our donors' dollars—money which they thought was being used to provide medical care for those already affected by HIV—will instead be used to put in place a state law that does nothing more than duplicate what we believe already to be the law under the California (if not the federal) Health Code."
So it's worth asking at this point, why do this? And the answer is equally simple: Donations. The more AIDS Healthcare can get its name in the national and local news media, the more donations it will receive from unwary citizens, which will mean that in this age of ever-escalating drug prices, AHF will be able to use at least some of these campaign funds to support its own bottom line—not to mention salary increases for Weinstein and his staff, and whatever payoffs AHF is making to the five HIV-positive former performers it trots out at these press conferences, only one of whom—Darren James—arguably caught his infection on an adult movie set in 2004, though the exact method of James's infection is by no means clear, since he was shooting in South America at the time.
In fact, later in the press conference, Weinstein did address the issue of funding, saying that "the overwhelming majority of our budget goes to care and testing, but we are very unabashedly an advocacy organization," and that that advocacy takes the form of preventing STD infections—and not aggregating power or money to itself. Readers familiar with AHF's track record in that regard can draw their own conclusions.
"We understand that CalOSHA is greatly taxed, that it's a small agency and it has a big burden of responsibility; the adult film industry of course is only one of them," Weinstein then stated. "Also, they are complaint-driven, meaning their authority comes about as a result of complaints, either by employees or by others like AIDS Healthcare Foundation, so they have responded to requests that we made to investigate situations but they have limited authority. The most important thing about what we tried to do with legislation over the last two years is that, the industry rightly says that the bloodborne pathogen law that is being applied to them is not specific to their industry ... so five years ago, we filed a request for regulation, and when we did that, and when the Standards Board indicated that they would look favorably on that, we would never have imagined it would be five years later and it wouldn't have been acted on, and so we were particularly disappointed this fall when they indicated that they would be pushing this back until March."
But that was only a set-up for Weinstein Big Lie #4: "Every committee we appeared before in the state legislature passed this [referring to AB 332 and 1576] overwhelmingly," he stated, though in at least two committees, the measure in fact passed by just one vote—though Weinstein claimed that the bill "was killed in a back-room deal by a single committee chairperson in each case in each year." Perhaps the adult industry should be flattered that someone with the political power of a Michael Weinstein actually would claim that California state legislators would be open to a "back-room deal" with the adult industry! Call that Weinstein Big Lie #5.
"The other thing that I want to make clear, because it's lost in the shuffle with CalOSHA, is that we said from Day 1 that the issue here is primarily an issue of STDs, not HIV," Weinstein Big Lied #6. As anyone who's been following AHF's adventures in the porn industry knows, nearly all of the discussion at the various CalOSHA subcommittee meetings held from 2010 through 2012 revolved around HIV transmission, since it's one of the few STDs adult performers could possibly contract on a set that doesn't have a cure, and AHF's signature gatherers for Measure B referred specifically to alleged HIV infections in the industry when propositioning citizens to sign the petition. It was only after the industry made it clear that there had been no HIV infections on adult sets since 2004 that Weinstein began talking about STDs other than HIV.
"Obviously, HIV infection has a particularly catastrophic result, and you're going to hear from people who did become HIV-positive while in the industry," he Big Lied #7, well aware of the industry's lack of on-set HIV transmission—yet in AHF's most recent press releases, those infected persons are described as people "who became HIV-positive while working in the adult film industry," which is as informative and truthful as saying they became HIV-positive while walking down the street.
Big Lie #8 followed immediately: "But when you look at the overall public health impact of the industry, it's the thousands and thousands of infections that have taken place and are still going on that is having the biggest impact, not only within the industry, but in the community," he claimed. In fact, since adult performers are much more pro-active about their health than ordinary citizens, and are tested for a variety of STDs every 14 days, what's clear is that adult performers are much more at risk of becoming STD-infected by having sex with a member of the general public than the average citizen is in having sex with an adult performer!
Weinstein then got all populist, claiming that his various forced barrier petitions and legislation are "what democracy looks like: the people petitioning their government"—except of course that it wasn't ordinary citizens petitioning their government; it was entirely AIDS Healthcare and its employees and contractors; the citizens' signatures were just a means to AHF's end.
Weinstein alluded to the protests his group has mounted in front of CalOSHA offices in Los Angeles and Oakland—protests whose participants were paid to attend with $15 and $25 gift cards and free lunch—saying that the intent of the protests was to get CalOSHA to act on its 2009 petition to revamp the Health Code—an action that Weinstein had already noted will be taken up by the CalOSHA Standards Board at its March meeting.
Weinstein then introduced Bradley Hertz of The Sutton Law Firm, who is the attorney involved in the formation of AHF's political action committee ("FAIR"), which will promote and gather signatures for the initiative AHF wants to put on the 2016 ballot. Hertz was fairly non-commital in his short segment, tracing how the ballot initiative process works, and referring to the "Ballot Initiative Transparency Act," which he said "basically allows the process to be more open, to have more opportunity for input by the legislature as well as by citizens along the way." Apparently, one of the requirements of the new law is once a certain percent of signature threshhold is reached, the state must be notified and can hold legislative hearings, and the legislators are "allowed to have input into the ballot measure."
"Previously, you were on a train that had no stops, once you submitted that [petition]," Hertz said, adding most interestingly, "Now, there's an opportunity for working with the legislature and actually not going forward with the initiative up to 131 days prior to the election."
Why Hertz's statement is interesting is its implications for AHF's ballot initiative in the first place. Weinstein is already well aware that the CalOSHA Standards Board will be dealing with a revamp of the Health Code—particularly Section 5193—at its March meeting, and various drafts of the rewrite of that section have already been made public (though not the most recent version). So it seems likely that the reason AHF is announcing its ballot initiative now, since the initiative may be rendered superfluous once the Standards Board makes its decision roughly five months from now, is the old one: Donations. The more noise AHF can make about their initiative now, before the Standards Board acts, the more people will notice AHF and the more money they will donate.
Hertz noted that thanks to the reform law, the public as well as the legislature can have input into the petition's wording, and if the petitioner sees fit, it can even change the wording of the petition in response to that input without having to mount another entirely new petition drive—sort of the way Isadore Hall kept rewriting his various mandatory barrier bills even as different houses of the legislature were considering them.
Sadly, the audio of the press conference was horrible, and not everything said was audible—something AHF was aware of but did nothing to fix—but from what we could discern, the usual suspects—Rod Daily, Cameron Bay, Derrick Burts and Darren James—trotted out the same lies and half-truths they've been spouting at press conferences and in front of the state legislature for a couple of years now. However, Weinstein interrupted the list of speakers just once, to claim that another "big lie" the industry tells is that "there are no on-set infections. They don't know that, and people shouldn't be relying on them. So I just wanted that on the record, that they've repeated over and over again that there have been no on-set infections in that time." Of course, since the industry has never made that claim, only that there have been no on-set HIV infections—a claim proven by testing all the performers with whom the HIV-infected performer had worked on-camera—so the award for the Big Lie (#9) goes to Weinstein himself.
What was new this time, though, was the latest addition to that august performer group: former performer Sofia Delgado, a veteran of, according to the Internet Adult Film Database, exactly four scenes: Two for Lethal Hardcore, both described as "lesbian," and two for Oakland-based Intersec Studios, a Kink rival, the slogan for whose main website, SexuallyBroken.com, is "extreme bondage and sex."
"I began shooting in adult productions in June, 2013. My career totaled two months, and in that time, I performed in adult scenes six times," Delgado stated. "When I became a performer, I was comforted by the voluntary testing, and I felt truly safe having relations with my seasoned partners. One performer gave his personal insight into the business: 'It's not if you are going to get a disease, but when.' Mere weeks later, at barely 20 years old, I was diagnosed with HIV. Although being tested was helpful in diagnosing me with HIV, it was not prevention. Testing is not prevention. Condoms are prevention."
Again, note that Delgado didn't claim she got her HIV infection on an adult set—which makes her just as half-truthful as her other AHF-funded comrades.
Following the former performers' presentations, there was a short question-and-answer period, but the unmuted conversations of others on the telephone line were so intrusive that AHF ended the Q&A session early, leaving the adult industry bracing once again for a long fight to keep barrier protections voluntary.
Shortly after the press conference concluded, Free Speech Coalition issued a statement in response to what was said, which can be found here. Also, AVN has learned that the press conference and the issue of condoms/barrier protections in general will be one of the main subjects of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) meeting scheduled for this Sunday, which all performers are encouraged to attend.
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