AHF’s Filings with Secretary of State Show Payments to “Tea Party Rock Star” Maker
SACRAMENTO – An out-of-state political campaign firm specializing in media buying for right-wing clients, including President Donald Trump, is being paid by Michael Weinstein’s AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to promote Proposition 21, the anti-housing ballot measure, according to new filings with the California Secretary of State’s office.
“While trying to peddle Proposition 21 as a measure that benefits working families, Michael Weinstein and AHF are quietly funneling unknown amounts to political consultants working to re-elect Donald Trump and promote conservative causes,” said Steven Maviglio of Californians for Responsible Housing, the opponents of the measure. “This is shameful hypocrisy. It should cause anyone associated with Weinstein’s campaign to immediately rebuke their support.”
According to the filings, AHF has engaged The Strategy Group Company for campaign services to promote Proposition 21. The Delaware, Ohio political strategy firm boasts this quote from Fox News on its website: “Their client list reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of GOP lawmakers.”
Included on that client list are President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, as well as conservative GOP U.S. Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Also noted as clients are Ohio Right to Life, the American Petroleum Institute, and Texans for Lawsuit Reform.
The firm also has worked on ballot initiatives to reject health care access in Ohio, an independent redistricting commission for the Buckeye state, and to elect anti-choice, anti-union judges in nearly a dozen states.
The Strategy Group Company is run by Rex Elsass, who GQ magazine described as “The Most Powerful Man in the GOP” and a “Tea Party Rock Star” maker. The article notes: “Elsass provides his employees with Tag Heuer watches as well as suits from the 1812 Society—the custom men’s clothing line he also happens to own. Keys to the luxury sedans out front are distributed as bonuses. Similarly, Elsass helps with the down payments and mortgages for his top employees’ homes.”
This is not the first time Weinstein has partnered with The Strategy Group Company and its ad-buying subsidiary, Strategic Media Placement. In 2016 and 2017, AHF engaged the Republican consultants to promote “Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices,” an Ohio ballot initiative on prescription drugs. It paid the two companies, $12.2 million for “media” and “teleforum” services. The measure was defeated.
In the 2019-2020 election cycle, Strategic Media Placement worked for Trump Republicans, according to the Federal Election Commission database. Its clients are running on platforms that include “No gun control policies,” “Finish the Wall,” and that climate change is a “Hoax.” They also include Trump loyalists Eric Brakey (“Trump is far and away the best president I’ve seen in my lifetime.”) and Matt Laughridge (who is quoted as saying Trump “has been the single most successful presidency in history”).
To date, more than 99 percent of the $16.7 million in contributions to Proposition 21 have come from Weinstein’s AHF. The FPPC is currently probing the organization for failing to fully disclose its expenditures against housing legislation. Earlier this year, Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) called on the California Attorney General to investigate AHF’s use of nonprofit funds for political purposes.