Backers of drug ballot issue fight back with documentary

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COLUMBUS — Angered by an onslaught of pharmaceutical company-financed ads attacking him and his organization, the highest profile face behind a drug-pricing issue on the Nov. 7 ballot plans to fight back with an hour-long paid documentary.

“I believe we’re spending approximately $62,000 to do this,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “I think people are justifiably cynical about 30-second ads which condense complicated ideas into sound bites.

“Basically the ‘no’ campaign is not saying a single word in their own defense,” he said. “All they’ve done is attack.”

The documentary focuses on the non-profit foundation and its work, a direct response to opposition ads that characterize Mr. Weinstein as a California CEO trying to profit off prescription drug sales in Ohio.

He said 96 cents of every dollar earned by the foundation goes back into its humanitarian mission.

The campaign said the paid spot will air in the Toledo market at noon on Saturday on WTOL, Channel 11.

Issue 2 asks voters to approve a law that would require state government and the programs it funds to pay no more for prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs pays. Mr. Weinstein estimated that the industry will spend $50 million to defeat Issue 2.

Dale Butland, spokesman for Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue, countered that the pro-Issue 2 campaign is on track to spend $20 million.

“If he wants to spend a good portion of that on hour-long testimonials to his own goodness, why that’s entirely up to him,” he said. “We know a few things that won’t be in that hour-long documentary. … We think voters need to know that he routinely takes tens of millions of untaxed dollars out of the nonprofit he runs and spends it on political campaigns, not on the HIV-AIDS mission of his foundation.”

Contact Jim Provance at or 614-221-0496.