First Mani, Now Soleimani: Major WeHo Developers Are Backing Donald Trump’s Re-Election

Benjamin Soleimani

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story contained a photograph of Benhour Soleimani, also known as Ben, and said that he had donated to Donald Trump’s election campaigns. While the Federal Election Commission donor database lists Ben Soleiman as a donor of $5,600 to Trump, Benhour Soleimani says, and WEHOville has confirmed, that he was not the Ben who was the source of those donations. They came from his brother, Benjamin Soleimani, who has confirmed that he was the donor. WEHOville regrets the error and has corrected the story and replaced the photograph of Benhour (Ben) Soleimani with that of Benjamin (Ben) Soleimani. Benhour and Benjamin Soleimani were partners in BMB Commercial Corp., the real estate company involved in the Restoration Hardware and other Melrose Avenue real estate developments.

In West Hollywood, there was a protest in August against the Equinox gym on Sunset Boulevard after it was reported that Stephen Ross, founder of the company that owns the Equinox, was hosting an expensive fundraiser for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. The West Hollywood City Council has refused to do business with companies controlled by Trump and City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath famously issued a statement saying Donald Trump wasn’t welcome in West Hollywood.

However, things went quiet among local politicians when news emerged that same week that donors to Trump included the Mani Brothers, two of West Hollywood’s most prominent real estate developers and property owners who also have been major donors to the campaigns of City Council members John D’Amico, John Duran, John Heilman, and Lindsey Horvath.

Now, a review of Federal Election Commission data shows that Benjamin Soleiman, another major WeHo developer and a contributor to City Council election campaigns,  has made significant donations to the re-election campaign of the controversial president, who currently is the subject of an impeachment investigation by Democratic members of the U.S House of Representatives.

Benjamin Soleimani donated $5,600 to Trump’s campaign in September according to FEC records. David Soleimani, a relative of Soleimani’s who owns J.H. Minassian & Co., the rug company at the Pacific Design Center, donated $2,000 to Trump that month. OpenSecrets.org, which chronicles campaign donations, reports that Benjamin Soleimani also donated $19,600 in May 2016 to the Republican National Committee, several months ahead of Trump’s successful election as president.

Under federal law, an individual can contribute a maximum of $2,800 to a candidate to per election. Because primary and general elections count as separate elections, individuals may give up to $5,600 per candidate per cycle. Individuals currently can contribute up to $35,500 per year to a political party.

In a Facebook post in August, Marta Evry, who had been a field coordinator for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, reported that the Mani Brothers and their family members had donated $16,800 to Trump.  A review by WEHOville of current FEC reports shows that Trump actually received $10,600 from Simon Mani and his wife Rachel. Daniel Mani had donated $1,600 in 2016.

Soleimani’s BMB Commercial Corp. donated $15,000 to “WeHo United for John Heilman for City Council 2015,” an independent expenditure committee formed to support Heilman’s re-election campaign. BMB Commercial also was a major supporter of City Councilmember John Duran’s 2013 election campaign, donating $5,000 to the “Friends of West Hollywood, A Committee Supporting John Duran for City Council 2013” independent expenditure committee.

BMB donated $5,000 to “West Hollywood United to Support Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico for Council 2019,” an independent expenditure committee supporting the re-election of those incumbents in March.

Restoration Hardware, 8565 Melrose Ave.

During both the 2013 and 2015 elections, BMB was seeking support from the City of West Hollywood for major projects. The City Council in 2013 denied the West Hollywood West Neighborhood Association’s appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of BMB’s proposed Restoration Hardware building at 8564 Melrose Ave. at Westmount.  And in 2015 the Council approved BMB’s plans for a two-story commercial building at 8650 Melrose Ave. at Norwich Drive that also had been opposed by some residential neighbors.

Benhour Soleimani, a Beverly Hills resident with major business interests in West Hollywood, has been dubbed “The Mayor of Melrose” by the Los Angeles Times, which profiled him in 2010. “For the better part of the past 10 years, he has been helping to transform the five-block stretch of Melrose Avenue between La Cienega and San Vicente into one of L.A.’s most stylish hamlets,” the Times story said.

The Soleimanis in 1991 opened Mansour, a showroom for their family’s rug business, at 8600 Melrose Ave. near Westbourne in West Hollywood. It is said to be the largest rug retailer in the world. Through BMB the Soleimani brothers have developed a number of properties in the Melrose area, including the building at 8590 Melrose Ave. that housed the now-closed Kitson apparel store, and Waterworks at 8431 Melrose Place, which sells upscale sinks and other bathroom fixtures. BMB’s plan for the 30,000 square foot Restoration Hardware building, initially planned as a wholesale location, was approved by the West Hollywood City Council in May 2012 in a 3-2 vote, with then-Mayor Jeffrey Prang and Councilmember John D’Amico opposing. WHWRA opposed the project, arguing that the inclusion of retail space and an underground garage for 130 cars meant it would contribute to traffic congestion in the area. Councilmember Duran supported BMB’s arguments for the project, saying that distinctions residents made between wholesale and retail usage weren’t relevant.


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Larry Block
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Larry Block

While it’s interesting to note the large West Hollywood developers who support Trump financially this article is narrowly focused. What is missing and should be noticed is that Trump received about 30% of votes cast in West Hollywood. And while I do not support Trump and look forward to the next election each of us has a right to support any candidate we choose without prejudice. Besides if these guys support Trump and Duran maybe they have something else in common like an attraction to bombastic individuals who like to ‘grab em by the…

jimmy Palmieri
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jimmy Palmieri

People are allowed to like and support trump. They are ignorant, but they are allowed…..

learntobeajournalist
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learntobeajournalist

Stop demonizing people for their political views. I’m an Independent and it’s where the voice of reason is. What makes America great is that you can vote for who you want. I support less govt control over my life, more freedom. Trump may not be the answer but big govt sure isn’t either.
I support people’s right to vote for who they want without being vilified and attacked from both the left and right. Peace.

Art
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Art

Hmmm. Lauren Meister’s instincts are looking priiii-ty good right now.

Jonathan Simmons
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Jonathan Simmons

I agree plus. The first Trump Tower Meeting… All I said the one meeting WE KNOW OF. Going after adult children. Jared Kushner, I remember hearing, but nothing after, got 1 Billion Dollars “as a year of rent” for the Kushner 666 Park Ave deal gone bad for years. LET’S START. But liking a criminal is not a crime. Look at the popularity of Bonnie & Clyde. We CAN’T accuse unelected non participants of corruption just for liking a president who will financially hurt all most all of his base. The above are people prohibited and legally denied access to… Read more »

TriWester
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TriWester

Where class interests are aligned, class alliances are formed. We live–by design–in an era of disastrously unregulated capitalism, remember?

Mike
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Mike

President Trump is a crook. Anyone who supports him by donating money to his campaign for re-election is a crook as well. Anyone who accepts money from someone who supports Trump is also a crook. Nuff said.

Jonathan Simmons
Guest
Jonathan Simmons

Is that enough to say.

The problem is there are not that many horrible people in the world.

But if too many good people don’t stand up, and keep fighting against the bad, a enough said IS NEVER Enough… At least as it stands now. SCARY!

see Late Night With Seth Myers (online clip) of outtakes 9f the Republican appointed NEW FEDERAL JUDGES.

I may have missed that news day. But defenetly nothing big said at all.

michael
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michael

Saying and talking is one thing but doing is another. The way to stand up to people like Trump is to vote them out of office and don’t vote for people like him. Sadly, members of the Republican party are mere sycophants to Trump. I used to have a modicum of respect for the GOP but that has gone out the window.

Michael Grace
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Michael Grace

WEHO is run by crooks!

Jonathan Simmons
Guest
Jonathan Simmons

I am a Dem to the left. TRUMP is objectively destroying our Constitution & Country.

BUT – FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

Is a big fundamental right in the US Constitution. Among protections, THE GOVERNMENT can’t punish or penalize people for whomever they (in this case A political party/An Insane Monster AA President)

It’s a slippery slope as seen here. Denying Trump supporter when convenient and looking the other way when “friend$” of the same city have supported the prior denial of Freedom of Association.

Oooops.

Too bad no lawyers on city council.

My bat. Heilman was a law school professor.

Rich
Guest
Rich

If we passed one simple city law saying that private citizens and corporations couldn’t finance any candidate’s campaign, and another capping how much time/money could be spent on campaigning – it would go a long way toward fixing this problem and a host of others, dealing a blow to political corruption unlike any we’ve ever seen.

Change my mind.

Blueeyedboy
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Blueeyedboy

I’m sure no one could change your mind, Rich, and far be it from me to even try.
What you’re suggesting is that none of us participate in the political process which would invite corruption like you can’t even imagine.
I have no problem with what Soleimani, Mani, or Stephen Ross did with their donations just as it’s none of my business when someone donates to Warren, Sanders, et al.
More power to ’em!

JF1
Guest
JF1

@Blueeyedboy – exactly.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

I agree. The cap for spending on City Council Campaigns should be $2000, just like it is for those Candidates who sign (under oath) an agreement which limits them to $2000 in Campaign donations. The only thing you would hear at City Council meetings is crickets because developers, big donors, Management and Council Members would be like rats on a sinking ship once they realize the cash cow has left the building. But, the good news is: The City would get true representation of the people and not the donors. It will take a few years for the City to… Read more »