AHF’s 2012 ‘Condoms in Porn’ Ballot Measure Prompts FEC to Revisit Illegal Foreign Money in US Elections
October 2, 2015
Los Angeles – AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), is pleased to report that on Thursday, October 1 st at 10:00am ET, the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) will revisit the issue of foreign money in US elections, “… particularly evident in state and local ballot measures.”
In October 2012, during a heated campaign leading up to the November 6, 2012 election for Ballot Measure B, the County of Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, individuals affiliated with AHF and citizen proponents of Measure B filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over violation of the prohibition against contributions from foreign nationals. AHF’s complaint alleged that illegal foreign money laundering occurred and illegal foreign contributions were made to a group opposing the local Los Angeles condoms in porn ballot measure sponsored by AHF by Manwin, a Luxembourg-based web porn company.
As USA Today reported in May of this year, “AIDS Healthcare Foundation argued that $327,000 — or nearly half the money spent to oppose the 2012 initiative — came from two companies tied to Manwin Licensing International, which runs adult websites and has operations around the globe. The foundation argued that the Manwin-related contributions violated the federal law that bans foreign donations in federal, state or local elections.”
Sadly, the FEC declined to even take up AHF’s complaint at the time, splitting three commission members to three along party lines, with Republican members stating that California law bans such foreign donations to ballot initiatives, and the issue should be decided by state officials. USA Today also reported, “The three Democrats on the panel voted to pursue an investigation. The deadlock, however, put an end to the case.”
However, on September 22 of this year, Ann M. Ravel, Chair of the FEC and one of the three who voted earlier to pursue an investigation, submitted a Memorandum to the FEC with the subject line, “State and Local Ballot Measures and the Ban on Foreign National Contributions.” The memo places the item on the formal Agenda for the FEC’s meeting taking place today, Thursday, October 1 st at FEC Headquarters (999 E St., NW, Washington, DC 20463).
In the Memorandum, Ravel wrote, “I have become increasingly concerned that there are not sufficient protections against foreign national involvement in national elections …The Commission recently considered a case where the facts demonstrated that a foreign national, a businessman who operates adult websites, contributed funds to oppose a Los Angeles ballot measure—the ‘Safer sex in the Adult Film Industry Act…”
Ravel went on:
“ Ballot measure elections are often associated with candidate elections. But even when they are not, they are opportunities for citizens to act as legislators, enacting important public policies. For these reasons…At the appropriate time, I intend to make the following motion:
I move to direct the Office of General Counsel to draft notice of proposed rulemaking to define the term “election” for the purposes of the ban on foreign national contributions and expenditures, 53 U.S.C. § 30121, to include state and local ballot measures.”
“It is imperative that the FEC actually takes up and acts on this issue of illegal foreign money in US elections and ballot measures—and that it does so before November 2016. We thank Commissioner Ravel for her leadership on this and urge the Commission to support Ms. Ravel’s motion,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and one of the five named proponents of Measure B, which requires adult film performers shooting in Los Angeles County to wear condoms. “Despite our disappointment in not even getting a hearing by the FEC on our earlier complaint from October 2012, we believe this issue will not go away on its own without greater oversight and clarity from the FEC. Our democratic process and principles in this country are simply too important to let foreign nationals or governments hold sway and influence US elections large or small with illegal campaign contributions”
In 2012, Measure B enjoyed a wide margin of support, passing with 57% of voters in favor: 1,617,866 votes in favor (56.96%) vs. 1,222,681 votes against (43.04%).