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Oct 15

AHF Prompts FEC to Revisit Illegal Foreign Money in US Elections

AHF’s 2012 ‘Condoms in Porn’ Ballot Measure Prompts FEC to Revisit Illegal Foreign Money in US Elections

October 2, 2015

ahf_logo1Los 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%).


Oct 15

AVN’s Mark Kernes Helps Make AHF’s Condoms in Porn Case?

AVN’s Mark Kernes Helps Make AHF’s Condoms in Porn Case?

September 21, 2015

Mark Kernes

Los Angeles – Press Release: After safer sex advocates filed over 557,000 signatures last week on a California ballot measure requiring condom use in adult films shot anywhere in the state, Mark Kernes, the Board Secretary for the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the porn producers’ trade group, as well as an Industry Legal Writer and Analyst, admitted in a print article on (Adult Video News) website (where he is ‘Senior Editor’) and (in all certainty as ‘Mark, from Chatsworth’) during a public radio call in show on ‘AirTalk with Larry Mantle’ on 89.3 KPCC-FM, that the industry is breaking the law by not using condoms on adult film sets and by not taking out required film and public health permits. Kernes also stated the porn industry is unlikely to leave Los Angeles County because “…they like the atmosphere in Southern California, you can shoot outdoors for longer periods during the year.”

In a September 15th web news article on headlined, “AHF and FSC Reps Square Off on KPCC’s ‘AirTalk’, Kernes wrote about the industry’s willful disregard for film and public health permits:

“…they’re {producers) … lying on their health permit application or simply not getting a filming permit. Most have chosen the latter course, possibly because lying on an official government document can be worth up to a couple of years in prison.”

Then on the well-regarded public radio talk show ‘AirTalk with Larry Mantle’, also on September 15th, host Mantle introduced a “Mark from Chatsworth, you’re on AirTalk” without identifying him as Kernes OR as Board Secretary of the Free Speech Coalition. It is unknown if Kernes shared that information with the radio producers ahead of time; however, ‘Mark’ began his comments with the statement, “I’m a journalist in the porn industry and have been covering it for the last twenty years.”

Then, in response to Mantle’s questions about the industry’s threats to leave Los Angeles over the condom laws, ‘Mark’ responded (in comments that run from approximately 7:48 to 9:14 in the 18 min. segment):

“There definitely has been some flight to Vegas, but the industry, in general I think, does not want to move to there because frankly, they like the atmosphere in Southern California, you can shoot outdoors for longer periods during the year.

And, of course, we have a California State Supreme Court decision that says shooting pornography is legal in California, and there are only a couple of states that had decisions that said that. So, no, they don’t want to leave L.A.

Some of them have been shooting outside of L.A. County, though, but that’s kind of a far trek, because the studios are based in L.A. County, so they don’t like to do that. Many of them are simply shooting as we might call it ‘underground’ in the county.”


Oct 15

AHF’s Demand for Medical Records Endangers Us All

AHF’s Demand for Medical Records Endangers Us All

 September 17,2015 – AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) president Michael Weinstein’s campaign against pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is fading, having been soundly rejected on all fronts. But he is escalating another crusade: challenging the medical privacy of actors in the adult film industry. But this article is not about Weinstein; it’s about why responding to threats to everyone’s right to privacy (yes, even his) is so critically important.

Recently, Weinstein’s organization, which has an annual budget of one billion, subpoenaed three providers of HIV and STI testing in Los Angeles, demanding that they release records on specific clients from as far back as 2007. The clients whose records were subpoenaed are adult film actors. This is the latest in Weinstein’s long history of attacks on the human rights and autonomy of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and those he perceives as vulnerable to HIV.

The Coburn/Weinstein Connection

Back in 2005, Weinstein paired up with Senator Tom Coburn, then the Senate’s leading opponent of anonymous HIV testing, to require mandatory HIV testing for newborns. A colleague who discussed the matter with him said “he just didn’t believe women could be trusted to do ‘the right thing’ without doctor’s orders.” In 2006, Coburn and Weinstein congratulated each other on forcing the adoption of name-based HIV registries in California, one of the last states in which human rights activists had fought tooth and nail to continue using unique identifiers, instead of names, to protect the privacy of people with HIV. Coburn is the Senator who introduced legislation requiring that all sex partners of people with HIV be mandatorily notified by the state of their HIV risk (because people obviously can’t be trusted to decide when and how to disclose their status).

The public Coburn/Weinstein love-fest has also included Weinstein’s testimony at 2006 Senate hearings chaired by Senator Coburn regarding the Ryan White CARE Act. After explaining that AHF’s primary mission is medical treatment, Weinstein expressed concern that more CARE Act money was being spent on social services than medicine, and said that U.S. grantees could provide better care “if most of their money [was] not being spent on food, housing, transportation, case management, and everything else.” In his view, local Ryan White Planning Councils cannot be trusted to know what their communities/states need to ensure comprehensive care for people living with HIV.

Attacks on the Privacy of Sex Workers

Weinstein’s initial attacks on the privacy of sex workers made headlines 2011, when he proudly spent $1.6 million of AHF’s money trying to pass a “mandatory condoms in porn” ballot initiative in California. Despite the industry’s unarguably low rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) transmission, and its ingenious and effective system for ensuring that its actors are tested voluntarily and regularly, Weinstein decided that universal condom use should be enforced and “[t]he adult film industry needs to be shut or use condoms starting today.”

The statewide initiative failed, but he succeeded in getting the County of Los Angeles to require condom use in all adult film scenes featuring vaginal or anal intercourse. 
 Weinstein invoked this law last month in serving those subpoenas, seeking to coerce the clinics to hand over private medical records. Given that this request violates the national Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it is highly unlikely that the county will require the clinics to release this information. Nevertheless, his effort should ring loud warning bells for HIV and human rights advocates.

Violating the privacy of name-based HIV registries and medical records is central to the application of laws criminalizing HIV transmission and exposure. Traditionally, law enforcement has only been allowed to access data from such records under very narrow circumstances. But now, prosecutors and legislators in more and more states are requiring health officials and health care providers to hand over medical records to prove an accused persons’ knowledge of her or his HIV status. Whether or not the accused actually put anyone at risk of acquiring HIV appears to be immaterial.

The Climate of HIV Criminalization

This past July, the state of Missouri sentenced two men, Michael Johnson and David Mangum, each to 30 years in prison for failing to disclose their HIV status to sex partners. Missouri also charged one man for lying about his HIV status on a social media hook-up app, even though there was never any physical contact between the two parties.

ProPublica has documented over 500 instances between 2003 and 2013 in which people living with HIV were convicted of or pleaded guilty to charges brought under HIV-specific laws. The Sero Project has documented more than 1,300 instances in which HIV-specific charges have been filed. Most of these cases rely on evidence showing that the accused knew her or his HIV status at the time sex took place. They typically disregard the science of HIV transmission and whether or not a risk of transmission was ever present during the sexual encounter.

To get the evidence that the accused knew that she or he was HIV positive at the time exposure occurred, prosecutors and law enforcement go to public health officials to access the state’s HIV reported-names registry, and to the records of individual physicians and clinics. According to ProPublica, judges and prosecutors in Idaho, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and other states “have used subpoenas and warrants to force health officials to hand over these forms along with other medical records, such as test results. These are used as evidence against patients charged with violating viral exposure laws. County prosecutors in Indiana, for example, have served at least 20 such subpoenas to the state health department since 2010.”

In this atmosphere, Weinstein’s decision to push the boundaries further by demanding, as a private citizen, that HIV testing clinics release private records is appalling. It is also a warning — especially in light of the fact that people living with HIV, like people working in the sex industry, are increasing vulnerable to harassment, arrest, prosecution and abusive sentencing.

The Free Speech Coalition in California is currently defending the clinics subpoenaed by Weinstein in their refusal to surrender their confidential medical records. HIV and human rights activists everywhere should join them in defending both actors and targeted clinics — loudly and publicly. Like liberty, the price of privacy is constant vigilance. And if the rights of any of us are held as dispensable, then the rights of all of us will become dispensable.


Oct 15

AHF Collects 557,136 Signatures….

AHF Collects 557,136 Signatures, Files Seven Complaints Against Adult Companies

 September 14,2015

ahf_logo1Press Release – Los Angeles – Safer sex advocates affiliated with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), and the group FAIR (For Adult Industry Responsibility) are pleased to announce that they have collected—and will be filing by today’s deadlines in all 58 California counties statewide—557,136 signatures of registered voters in order to qualify for a statewide ballot initiative that would expand the power of Cal/OSHA and local California public health departments to enforce condom use on adult film sets throughout the state. Just 365,880 valid signatures are needed to qualify the California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, which when signatures are verified, will appear on the November 2016 ballot in California. The measure is intended to prevent thousands of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that occur among performers each year in the industry and comes after nearly two dozen adult performers became HIV-infected while working in the industry between 2004 and 2014.

California Statewide Condom Ballot Measure

The California statewide condom ballot measure, known as ‘The California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act,’ is modeled on Measure B, a similar measure officially known as the ‘County of Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act,’ which passed with overwhelming voter support — 57% to 43% — in the November 2012 election in Los Angeles County. Initial polling on the proposed statewide measure that was conducted in September 2014 suggests as many as 71% of the state’s voters would back the measure.

“By today’s filing deadlines, we will have submitted a total of 557,136 signatures in all fifty-eight counties throughout California in order to qualify this statewide ballot measure regulating condom use and safer sex practices in California’s adult film industry for the November 2016 ballot,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the citizen proponent of the state measure. “In an abundance of caution, we collected 191,256 more signatures than we needed to qualify. In 2012 in Los Angeles with Measure B and with our initial polling for this measure, voter sentiment favoring safer sex in adult films is clear: unlike most politicians, voters are not squeamish about this issue, seeing it as a means to protect the health and safety of performers working in the industry. It’s only fair that adult film performers be afforded the same safeguards as other Californians in their workplaces. In November 2016, we anticipate California voters will once again reaffirm this important principle.”

“Porn producers tell the media that performers have a choice when it comes to condoms. What they don’t tell you is that if a performer wants a condom, they’re paid less. Sometimes, producers will fire you for asking. We’re replaceable. They’ll say, ‘I have three girls waiting to take your place, and they’ll shoot without condoms.’ So where’s the choice in that?” said Cameron Adams, a former adult film performer who became infected with HIV while working in the industry in August 2013. “I worked in the adult film industry for just a few months. Each month, the industry said I had to get tested for STDs and pay for them out of my own pocket. 300 bucks a month. They told me testing would keep me safe. Prevent infections. What they didn’t tell me is that those tests aren’t complete. They miss infections all the time. Plus, testing doesn’t stop infections. Testing only tells you what you got. And I got HIV.”

The advocates’ push for a statewide California law via ballot initiative came about as means to expand the safety regulations protecting adult film performers working anywhere in the state. It also came about after the delayed implementation and roll-out of Measure B in Los Angeles — delays that advocates largely attribute to legal challenges from the adult film industry as well as bureaucratic indifference by L.A. County officials.

The adult industry filed a lawsuit soon after Measure B passed in 2012 alleging free speech infringement of the First Amendment rights of the performers and adult producers. However, in a December 2014 decision, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the adult industry’s First Amendment claims and upheld Measure B, noting that, “…Measure B, passed in 2012, was designed to address the spread of disease and is narrowly tailored to that end.”

The title and summary issued by the State of California for the measure reads as follows:

‘The California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act’

“Requires performers in adult films to use condoms during filming of sexual intercourse. Requires producers of adult films to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations related to sexually transmitted infections. Requires producers to obtain state health license at beginning of filming and to post condom requirement at film sites. Imposes liability on producers for violations, on certain distributors, on performers if they have a financial interest in the violating film, and on talent agents who knowingly refer performers to noncomplying producers. Permits state, performers, or any state resident to enforce violations. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potentially reduced state and local tax revenue of millions or tens of millions of dollars per year. Likely state costs of a few million dollars annually to administer the law. Possible ongoing net costs or savings for state and local health and human services programs.(15-0004.)”

Confirmed support for the California “Safer Sex” 2016 ballot initiative:

1 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – District IX

2 American Sexual Health Association

3 Beyond AIDS

4 California Academy of Preventive Medicine

5 California Communities United Institute

6 California State Association of Occupational Health Nurses

7 San Francisco Medical Society

Policy supporters for condom use in the adult film industry:

1 American Medical Association

2 American Public Health Association

3 California Conference of Local AIDS Directors

4 California Division of Occupational Safety and Health

5 California Employment Lawyers Association

6 California Industrial Hygiene Council

7 California Medical Association

8 California Public Health Association – North

9 California STD Controllers Association

10 Health Officers Association of California

11 Journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections

12 Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

13 Los Angeles County Medical Association

14 National Coalition of STD Directors

15 Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California

16 San Francisco City and County Department of Public Health

17 Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health

18 Ventura County Board of Supervisors

19 Western Occupational and Environmental Medicine Association


AHF Files Seven Additional Safety Complaints with Cal/OSHA & L.A. County Dept. of Public Health

In addition, the safer sex advocates will also announce the filing of seven (7) additional workplace safety complaints against porn producers with both Cal/OSHA and the L.A. County Department of Public Health for filming in L.A. without condoms. Among the newly cited producers are James Deen Productions, Brazzers, Evil Angel Productions, Jules Jordan Video, Burning Angel, Zero Tolerance Entertainment and Elegant Angel. A cursory review by safer sex advocates affiliated with AHF and FAIR identified at least seven (7) adult film productions by these producers that were shot in Los Angeles between May 6, 2015 and July 30, 2015 WITHOUT with any condom use, nor with any film permits taken out. Not only did this review expose film permit and condom safety violations, it also peels back the industry lie — and frequent mainstream media misrepresentation — that adult production has plummeted over 90% and that the porn industry has all but abandoned filming in Los Angeles. Producers are simply not taking out required film permits.

The new safety complaints include the following producers & productions:

1 James Deen, Productions: “Stockholm Syndrome” filmed June 28, 2015

2 Brazzers: “Fourth of July: Big Butt Independence” filmed May 27, 2015

3 Zero Tolerance Entertainment: “How to Train Your Teen’s As*” filmed May 11, 2015

4 Burning Angel: “Ronda ArouseMe” filmed July 30, 2015

5 Evil Angel Productions: “His As* is Mine #2: MILF Edition” filmed May 6, 2015

6 Jules Jordan Video: “Bra Busters 7” filmed July 15, 2015

7 Elegant Angel: “Busty Workout” filmed June 27, 2015