POLITICO - He’s rich. He’s pugilistic. And he’s quietly paying to get Gavin Newsom’s attention.
The organization trying to qualify another rent control ballot measure in California is paying $2 per signature for a letter to the Democratic governor — and it’s not disclosing who is funding the correspondence.
But the draft letter, which seeks support for a proposed ballot initiative to enact rent control on residential properties, hasn’t made its way through California circles by mere word of mouth. Michael Weinstein, a polarizing nonprofit honcho from Los Angeles, is paying roving pamphleteers $2 for every signature they get for it, according to copies of the nonprofit’s correspondence obtained by POLITICO and interviews with people familiar with the strategy.
Weinstein, the sharp-elbowed head of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is a divisive force in California’s über-expensive ballot wars, having locked horns with major players while trying unsuccessfully to push through initiatives on everything from housing development to drug prices to mandating condoms in porn. His latest gambit is again making him a target for scorn among critics who say he is using his group’s coffers to bolster his standing and strengthen his hand politically.
It’s also opening a window into yet another way powerful individuals and groups can wield influence in the state, often without public scrutiny and far outside the Capitol.
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