AHF Plays Robo-Politics with Sacramento - UPDATED

LOS ANGELES—Playing politics is nothing new for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has fashioned a multi-million dollar empire out of suing Big Pharma and goading public servants, politicians and bureaucrats into doing their bidding through relentless campaigns of intimidation.

Of course, they also are known for taking their case directly to the public, which they did again yesterday seeking support for AB 640—the second attempt by Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D-Compton) to pass a bill mandating the statewide use of “condoms and other protective barriers whenever acts of vaginal or anal intercourse are filmed” for commercial purposes—by launching “a robocall campaign… targeting a Los Angeles-area state assemblyman who they accuse of stymieing the legislation,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Unfortunately, they targeted the wrong guy. Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), who did have a hand in shelving AB 640’s precursor, AB 332, back in May, denied laying a finger on AB 640, which saw its last action on Aug. 28, when it was read for the second time, amended, and then re-referred to Senate Rules Committee, where its fate will be decided by legislative leaders.

But that is not what the resident’s of his district will be told in robocalls that feature the voices of “a former adult film actor Derrick Burts and Playboy bunny Rebekka Armstrong, who are HIV-positive,” according to the Times.

“The group said the calls urge constituents in Gatto's district, which includes Atwater Village, Burbank, Glendale, Hollywood, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Los Feliz, Montrose and Silver Lake, to call his office and tell him to ‘free AB 640 from his hold and let it come to a vote immediately before anyone else is harmed,’” the article added.

There may be other problems with AB 640. According to the Times, “Senate rules committee staffer Bob Franzoia said that when a bill is held and similar language appears in a different bill, it is considered a violation of procedures. The ‘custom and practice’ is then to hold the new bill until legislative leaders agree to consider it.”

"Otherwise the committee process doesn't really mean much," he said.

Assemblyman Hall, on whose legislative behalf AHF made the robocalls, was forced to distance himself from the effort as well, telling the Times he “had a ‘great working relationship’ with Gatto, and that he had no part in planning the robocall campaign.”

He also said that he had spoken recently with Gatto, who he said “expressed some concerns about letting the bill out this year… [but] was confident some version of the proposal would eventually be put to a vote.”

A few things have to happen first, though. According to Mark Hedlund, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a request to release AB 640 from the Rules Committee must come from Assembly Speaker John Pérez, from District 53, near downtown LA, whose residents may very well become the next recipients of AHF’s scattershot campaign to bend the nation to its will.


In the immediate aftermath of the news that broke today that a performer has tested positive for HIV, the third in recent weeks to have become infected, the LA Weekly is reporting that AHF sent Assembly Speaker John Pérez a letter today that read, in part:

"Now that there has been a third case of HIV in the adult film industry, we implore you to free AB 640 and allow it to come to a vote before the Legislature adjourns. We respectfully ask you to break the deadlock that has left this bill in limbo before one more person becomes infected with HIV or any other sexually transmitted illness. A clear message must be sent to the pornographers that they cannot defy the laws of the City and County of Los Angeles and the State of California. We ask you to personally come to the rescue of workers in this industry like you have on behalf of every other California workplace."

Image: (l. to t.) Mike Gatto, Michael Weinstein, Isadore Hall.