Big Trump Donors Are Also Major Donors to the Campaigns of the West Hollywood City Council Incumbents

Daniel and Simon Mani

In what has become the most divisive elections in modern American history, the real estate development company owned by a family of major donors to President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign also are major donors to the independent committee created to campaign for the re-election of West Hollywood City Council members John Duran and John Heilman. Duran and Heilman, who face seven challengers in the Nov. 3 election, are self-professed Democrats who have been strongly critical of Trump.

Recently filed political campaign contribution reports show that Mani Brothers, the real estate development firm, is the donor of $15,000 to “WeHo First Supporting Heilman and Duran for Council 2020,” an independent expenditure committee recently formed to campaign for the re-election of the incumbents. As of Sept. 19, that committee had raised a total of $47,500 from real estate interests and billboard company owners.

The billboard companies include Ace Outdoor of Salt Lake City, Utah, ($5,000), Orange Barrel Media of Columbus, Oh., ($5,000), and Big Outdoor Opco of Dallas, Tex., ($5,000).

Donald Trump

Other major donors were Silver Creek Commercial Development of Scottsdale, Ariz. ($5,000), the developer behind the proposed 8250 Sunset project; Office Untitled ($2,500), the architect involved in numerous West Hollywood projects including Jason Illoulian’s proposed Bond Hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard at Orange Grove, developments at 1236 and 1250 N. Fairfax Ave. and digital billboards on Sunset Boulevard.

Other real estate interests who have contributed are James Arnone ($2,500), a partner with the Latham & Watkins law firm and a member of Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group, and Duncan Joseph Moore ($2,500), a Latham & Watkins attorney. Latham & Watkins represents major developers in West Hollywood and across Los Angeles County and its attorneys are frequent donors to local election campaigns. The campaign finance report also lists a donor of $5,000 as Venice #4694, a name that doesn’t show up in a search of California companies although it says it is based in Los Angeles.

Daniel, Joseph, and Simon Mani, who founded Mani Brothers in 1994, and Tsipi Mani and Rachel Mani, wives of Daniel and Simon respectively, so far have donated nearly $250,000 to Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Data from the Federal Election Commission shows they also have been major donors to the re-election campaigns of other Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an avid supporter of Trump, and Joni Ernst, a senator from Iowa who is a strong opponent of abortion rights and strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment. All in all, as of Sept. 19, the Mani Brothers firm and the Mani family members have donated almost half a million dollars to Republican races.

In addition to their company’s support for the committee campaigning for the incumbents’ re-election, members of the Mani family also have made individual donations to Duran and Heilman’s re-election campaigns.  As noted in an earlier story by WEHOville, Heilman received $5,000 in individual contributions of $1,000 each from the Mani brothers and their wives. Duran received a total of $4,000 in donations earlier this year from the Mani brothers and their wives. Recently filed campaign contribution reports covering July 1 to Sept. 19, 2020, show he also received $500 from Tsipi Mani and $500 from Rachel Mani.

John Duran, left, and John Heilman

Founded in 1994 by brothers Daniel, Simon, and Joseph, and headquartered in West Hollywood, Mani Brothers Real Estate Group is a privately held real estate investment firm that owns, renovates, operates, manages, and leases 1.3 million square feet of prime commercial property. Its real estate holdings include prominent office buildings such as 9000, 9200, 9201, and 9220 Sunset Blvd., and the Piazza del Sol building at 8439  Sunset.

Candidates for office have no control over who donates to independent expenditure committees formed to promote their election. And legally there is supposed to be no connection between such committees and the candidates, hence the term “independent” used in describing them.

However, candidates are able to accept or reject donations made directly to their campaigns.  As WEHOville has previously reported, City Council members who have strongly condemned Donald Trump nevertheless have accepted donations from the real estate developer who is one of Trump’s major backers.  Data from campaign finance filings for the March 2019 City Council election shows that Daniel, Simon, and Tsipi Mani each donated the then-maximum of $500 (now raised to $1,000) to the re-election campaigns of City Council members Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico. 

Each of five members of the Mani family gave donations of $500 to City Councilmember John Duran’s 2017 re-election campaign. Simon Mani also donated, at the request of Duran, $1,000 to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a non-profit whose board Duran long chaired until he stepped down amid accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct with its young members (an allegation he has denied).

In 2015, Daniel and Simon Mani donated $15,000 to an independent expenditure committee formed to support John Heilman’s re-election to the City Council. Seven members of the Mani family also individually donated $500 to Heilman and Horvath, for a total of $3,500. And Daniel and Simon Mani contributed $20,000 to another independent expenditure committee —Friends of West Hollywood —which identified itself as “a committee to elect John D’Amico, John Heilman, Lindsey Horvath and Joseph Guadarrama to the West Hollywood City Council.”

Council members have argued that the Mani brothers and their wives are supporters of gay causes (such as the Gay Mens Chorus) and were major contributors to the development of the West Hollywood Library. Under Duran’s leadership, the Gay Mens Chorus attracted donations from many organizations seeking to do business with the city or get City Council support for their projects. They included applicants for cannabis licenses, real estate development firms and Wells Fargo. The library attracted donations also from Latham & Watkins and other development and lobbying interests seeking to do business with the city.

WEHOville will be analyzing other recently filed campaign contribution reports and publishing details of who is donating to who in coming days.

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Weho Boy
Weho Boy
2 months ago

Wow, a city made up of gays not respecting others rights to “be themselves”. When a city goes after people with opposing views something is rotten. A city should not be “political”. It should serve and respect all. A city should set an example of equal freedom of CHOICE for everyone. Liberals don’t do that very well. Donate to whomever you wish, without fear of backlash. Love whomever you wish without fear of backlash.

Vigilant
Vigilant
2 months ago

Question is will Trump likely be calling on Duran and his Mani pals for financial resources of some type? Will Trump sell or license his name to one of the Sunset Mani properties…….creating Trump Sunset?

Anything is possible.

Weho Boy
Weho Boy
2 months ago
Reply to  Vigilant

West Hollywood isn’t worth the Trump Families time. So no worries. They are not fans of Ca. anyway.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 months ago

Wow! WeHo First is a great name for a PAC in the era of trump’s America First rhetoric of division, hate and intolerance. Notably absent from the list of recipients is Lauren Meister–yet another reason to keep her on council whilst the real estate pawns do their masters’ bidding.

Art
Art
2 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

Lauren is incorruptible!

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
2 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

AMEN!
Clearly Lauren Meister IS the COUNCIL MEMBER who puts ALL RESIDENTS FIRST.

Keeping in mind that Sepi Shyne take zero money from developers.

Larry Block
Larry Block
2 months ago
Reply to  Deja Vu

Keep in mind Larry Block takes no money from developers or unions.

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
2 months ago

I felt really bad when I was reading this article. This is not fair to the residents of West Hollywood. The only way to break this incestuous cycle is to vote for me as I am spending less than $2000 of my own money on my campaign. My facebook campaign page is: https://www.facebook.com/Jerome-Cleary-for-West-Hollywood-City-Council-108249730993523

Get real
Get real
2 months ago
Reply to  Jerome Cleary

The only way to break the cycle is for people like you to stay out of the race and stop splitting the votes. Your not going to win with $2000. If that is all the support you have then you are just doing this for your ego. Your voice could be behind others that may have a chance but you made this about yourself not the future.

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
2 months ago
Reply to  Get real

@get real, I agree with you in part & disagree with you in part. Of the 9 candidates still running, at best 4 of them have a shot at winning..and I may be overly generous with that number. Generally speaking, as you stated, the more non-incubembents that run, they tend to splinter those votes. That being said, I have always thought that if anyone wants to run, go ahead & have the experience. Maybe it’s for their ego, maybe it’s because they have a few issues they want to see remain front & center during the campaign. Shameless plug here,… Read more »

Don Jones
Don Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Jerome Cleary

I am seriously considering voting for you Jerome. Your answers during the various forums have been insightful and usually spot-on.
We need a fresh approach from John Heilman and his protege John Erickson.

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
2 months ago
Reply to  Don Jones

Thanks for your support.

Marco Colantonio
2 months ago

When it comes to Big Money Donations, Birds of a Feather, the John’s all Flock Together. More Pay-to-Play, even from Trump Donors. Despite the Sex Scandals, Disgrace, Xenophobia and Misogyny, Heilman will stand side by side with Duran for the almighty donor-dollar. It’s all about ego, power and control first, and the people last.
Vote for change and vote these self-serving ego maniacs OUT!
marco4weho.com

Ryan Gierach
Ryan Gierach
2 months ago

We should also never forget the sweetheart deals on office space Mr. Duran has long enjoyed

Vigilant
Vigilant
2 months ago

“BIG TRUMP DONORS” exactly what would qualify for that?

Vigilant
Vigilant
2 months ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Missed the $250,000 to Trump and the RNC.

The Mani Bros appear to have their Man in Duran who looks to be operating in Trump Style, attitude, questionable ethics and financial endeavors notwithstanding.

:dpb
:dpb
2 months ago

This is not the first time Duran and Heilman benefitted from the Mani Brothers. This story first appeared in Los Angeles magazine and the Los Angeles Times a number of election cycles ago. But it’s very timely reminder of how hypocritical, personally greedy, and moral barren these two have been and remain.
Heilman and Duran should be tarred and feathered and run out of town.