Some Members Complain That John Erickson Uses Hollywood NOW to Promote His Political Career

John Erickson

Several members of the Hollywood chapter of the National Organization for Women have filed a complaint with the national organization and its California chapter claiming that John Erickson, its former president, has used the organization to promote his political career.

Erickson, who stepped down as president of the womens’ advocacy organization on July 31, is a candidate in the Nov. 3 election for West Hollywood City Council. The three Hollywood NOW members who filed the complaint claim that he and Karen Andros Eyres, the interim president, have used the organization for his benefit and that of David Ryu, who is running for re-election to the Los Angeles City Council and has endorsed Erickson.

“Hollywood NOW is making partisan political endorsements favoring problematic men over qualified women that are inconsistent with the values of NOW,” says the complaint. “The endorsements process is not fair. It is biased in favor of John Erickson and his political associates rather than being open to all candidates. There is unlawful coordination between Hollywood NOW and Erickson’s current campaign for West Hollywood City Council.”

“The male candidates endorsed–Erickson and Ryu–have a reputation for mistreating women,” says the complaint. “Ryu, in fact, was arrested in 2002 for an alleged rape. Erickson has targeted and harassed women in a number of political organizations in which he has been involved and whilst taking on leadership within women’s groups has elevated his own ambitions over the interests of women.”

The NOW members who filed the complaint are Lauren Buisson, Sean Kolodji, and Alex Paris. They are asking that Hollywood NOW revoke its endorsement of Erickson and Ryu and remove Erickson and Eyres from the organization and that NOW conduct an independent investigation of their conduct. (While Ryu in 2002 was arrested on a charge of attempted rape, to which he pled not guilty, the charges were dismissed when the district attorney’s office said it was unable to proceed within the required time to file charges.)

The complaint is the second time this year that Erickson, who has been building his nascent political career in part on his claim that he is a feminist, has been criticized for not being one. In July some local women objected when he nominated himself as vice chair of the West Hollywood Planning Commission and garnered enough votes from his fellow male members to push aside Lynn Hoopingarner, the woman next in line for the vice chair position.

Karen Andros Eyres (Facebook)

The complaint says that Hollywood NOW endorsed Ryu but did not invite Sara Kate Levy or Nithya Raman to be interviewed for a possible endorsement. Those women ran against Ryu for the L.A. City Council District 4 seat in the March primary. Raman, who served as the executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment, part of the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment, is competing with Ryu in the Nov. 3 election. The complaint also says that Hollywood NOW didn’t consider Sepi Shyne, a challenger in the West Hollywood City Council election. And it says the chapter not inform its members of the Sept. 24 endorsement meeting.

“At that meeting, on the evening of September 24, the chapter endorsed former chapter President John Erickson along with John Heilman and Noemi Torres—three candidates for two slots on the ballot,” the complaint says. “Torres is running an underfunded campaign and is not considered a leading contender in the election, so the effect is an endorsement of two men—Heilman and Erickson.”

The complaint says that Hollywood NOW’s social media accounts have been used only to promote its endorsements of Erickson and Ryu and not endorsements of Noemi Torres or Heilman. And it says that Erickson appears to have control of those accounts, noting that coordination between a candidate and a non-profit like Hollywood NOW is a violation of the law. It also suggests that the Sept. 24 endorsement may have been decided well before that meeting, noting that on Sept. 26, only two days later, West Hollywood residents began receiving mailers from Erickson’s campaign announcing the Hollywood NOW endorsement.

Eyres told WEHOville that Hollywood NOW’s executive board did consider all candidates in the races in which the chapter made endorsements. “No one, not any member of our leadership team or membership ranks, is in a position to manipulate the endorsement process in a way that excludes one or more candidates,” she said in an email message. “… the chapter voted overwhelmingly in favor of endorsing Torres, Heilman and Erickson based on the track record each has in their work for women’s rights and in the area of improving the lives of women and girls.“

Eyres said the chapter members who filed the complaint were “ardent supporters of City Council candidate Sepi Shyne.” She also said that Kolodji and Paris only recently joined Hollywood NOW and Buisson has no record of being a paid member. None of then were active members of the organization, she said. Eyres also said Sepi Shyne was one of those who received an email from the chapter announcing the Sept. 24 endorsement meeting, and she did not attend.

Erickson, who works for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles as director of public affairs, has played a role in a small and intertwined group of political and advocacy organizations including Hollywood NOW and Stonewall Democrats, where he is a member of the steering committee (as is Karen Eyres) and which gave him its only endorsement in the WeHo election. Like Hollywood NOW, Stonewall also did not invite all nine candidates in the West Hollywood City Council contest to participate in its endorsement forum.

As president of Hollywood NOW, Erickson has gotten the organization involved in several issues that aren’t related to women’s rights. For example, working with Abbe Land, who once employed him as her City Council deputy, he had Hollywood NOW stage a live reading of the Mueller Report in the City Council Chamber in August 2019, which was funded by the City of West Hollywood and attracted no more than a dozen people at any one time. It was widely viewed as an event to promote him politically. 

Erickson also appeared before the City Council in 2019 on behalf of Hollywood NOW to state that the organization supported a demand by holders of original cannabis licenses that they be granted permanent recreational cannabis sales licenses despite their not qualifying in a complex licensing process. Erickson said the reason a woman’s right’s organization would take a stand on cannabis licenses is because MedMen, a major campaign donor which sued the city over its failure to get a license, had agreed to sign a contract with United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 770, and not getting its license renewed meant some employees would be out of work.

John Erickson, on the left, celebrating marriage equality day with Lindsey Horvath and Estevan Montemayor (Instagram)

Erickson is very close to Lindsey Horvath, West Hollywood’s mayor, who is the founder of Hollywood NOW and its former president and has endorsed Erickson for City Council. Horvath’s political career took off after she was chosen by Council members John Heilman and Abbe Land for a vacant seat on the West Hollywood City Council in 2009. That was a controversial move because some residents said the seat should have been filled by a special election. Horvath lost her bid for re-election but was elected to City Council in 2015 in a campaign managed by Estevan Montemayor, who now is deputy chief of staff for David Ryu, who has endorsed Erickson for election. It was Heilman who appointed Erickson to the Planning Commission. In recent years the City of West Hollywood has sponsored a number of fundraising events by Hollywood NOW that benefit it and Planned Parenthood, including the annual reading of the Vagina Monologues.

The complaint filed against Hollywood NOW says that Erickson, “when not using the Hollywood NOW organization to further his cronies’ political careers, he is using it as a private social club rather than a general welfare organization. IRS guidelines require 501(c)4 organizations to have primarily a general welfare rather than personal or political focus. Hollywood NOW has few active members and very little traffic on its website. NOW has not engaged in any mass-lobbying activities to the community in furtherance of its general welfare goals of intersectionality and women’s empowerment. Hollywood NOW does not have much visibility to the general public–except in its political activities.”

Per NOW’s policy, the California Chapter of the National Organization for Women is now setting up a “grievance committee” to address the complaints.  Karen Eyres has objected to that, stating that it is up to the Hollywood NOW chapter to review the complaints and decide if they have merit.  However Kolieka Seigle, president of the California National Organization for Women has said that is the role of the California chapter of NOW and the state organization will proceed.

WEHOville has reached out to Erickson his comments on the complaint filed with NOW but has not received a response.

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K K
K K
1 month ago

The Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project, which Erickson also oversees, endorsed Ryu over Raman or Levy as well. It’s all fishy and gross to me. It’s clear to me that any endorsements brokered by Erickson cannot be trusted.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
1 month ago

See the pictures featured in this story. All of the participants have been exposed including Ms. Karen Eyres. Ms. Eyres even called in to the last Council meeting to support giving public funds to organizations that endorse candidates for City Council that the Council rightly rejected by a vote of 3-2. Horvath and Heilman wanted to keep funding groups that make endorsements and participate in our local elections. Shameful. The many comments here are spot-on as to what has been happening as these individuals try to rise through the political ranks supporting each other in the process. Remember this as… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago

Yup….”Give Me a Leg Up on Your Coattail”! A shared promise circulated through the ranks.

Don Jones
Don Jones
1 month ago

From what I understand, Miss Eyres promotes herself on LinkedIn as having been Mayor Lindsey Horvath’s election campaign manager.

Oh what a tangled web Horvath has woven for herself.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Don Jones

Yup, join the clique of “Self-Promoters Without Substance”, didn’t you hear, its a recent non-profit. Self endorsement desired and required.

Better to look to individuals like Marc Yusupov and Sepi Shyne who have the requisite balance and structure to evaluate issues on a logical and rational basis.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago

I would NEVER vote for this guy Erickson. From the moment he totally disregarded our permit process and defaced (vandalized) our city streets. Obnoxious and arrogant and too immature to serve on our city council if he can’t even abide by the rule of law. Not getting my vote. Not now..not ever.

Weho Truth Talk
Weho Truth Talk
1 month ago
Reply to  JF1

You realize the “vandalism” you’re talking about is the trans flag.

Transphobia isn’t welcome anywhere, especially not in Weho.

Last edited 1 month ago by Weho Truth Talk
Kyle Brown
Kyle Brown
1 month ago

Hey no one is being transphobic at all. John Erickson and his BFF Mayor Horvath went late at night in the dark and painted that Trans flag without permission from the city. The point is they didn’t have permission. If a heart, or any other symbol or flag was painted there on the streets in the middle of the night without permission that would be wrong too, unless they have specific permission from the city. We can’t make exceptions just because the guy who so badly wants to be on the council (and used planned parenthood and Hollywood Now) to… Read more »

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Kyle Brown

Exactly, Kyle. Thanks for explaining.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago

Doesn’t matter what his message was – whether I support it or I’m against it. You can’t go around vandalizing city streets because you feel your message is just. That’s not how things work. And what’s worse than Erickson doing what he did running for office, we have our own Mayor who stood by and watched it happen. SHAME ON HER. She’s not getting my vote next time around either.

Last edited 1 month ago by JF1
Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

the streets belong to all taxpayers. painting the street is illegal.

Soc
Soc
1 month ago

There are many instances of men “leading the charge” against misogyny by loudly spearheading pro-women groups, only to be found out that they have committed very misogynistic deeds themselves. They wrap themselves in a faux “cloak of virtue” to gain the trust of (and access to) women, to aid their own ladder-climbing and reputation.

Andrew D.
Andrew D.
1 month ago

Seems like most of what you folks are whining about is that your clique – the Larry Block/ Steve Martin clique – keeps losing elections. As in finishing dead last or very nearly dead last.

Wanna bet that even after the sore losers law goes into effect – some people call it term limits – these two will still end up dead last?

This pseudo newspaper is simply a poor mans version of Fox News. They simply shill for a couple of candidates and publish nothing but negative stories about everyone else.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago

From the get go, John Erickson could clearly be defined as a fabricated character. His convoluted approach to public service involved suck up positions with various people so he could attach his resume to theirs. That could be viewed as plagiarism. Perhaps he obtained a degree from Trump University. John Ericksons performance in front of the public, specifically his position on Planning Commission would deem an F grade as he displays no knowledge and simply uses his commentary on a project as an opportunity to expand his ego but belies his lack of knowledge. In his quest to advance himself,… Read more »

Don Jones
Don Jones
1 month ago

Karen Eyres, who is complaining the members of NOW who filed the complaint are bakers of candidate Sepi Shine, failed to mention she was appointed to the women’s advisory board by Mayor Lindsey Horvath.

Now that’s a real mike drop, Mr. Bergstein.

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
1 month ago

“Eyres said the chapter members who filed the complaint were “ardent supporters of City Council candidate Sepi Shyne.” She also said that Kolodji and Paris only recently joined Hollywood NOW and Buisson has no record of being a paid member. None of then were active members of the organization, she said. Eyres also said Sepi Shyne was one of those who received an email from the chapter announcing the Sept. 24 endorsement meeting, and she did not attend”

Boom. Mike drop. Oh Sepi, Sepi, Sepi…..

Sean Kolodji
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Bergstein

That makes no sense. Eyres can not attack the complainants political beliefs to distract from the substance of the allegation. Not once have the questioned the substance of the claims. And the evidence is piling up. Sepi has nothing to do with our complaint. It is between us and Erickson. He knows Lauren, Alex, and I very well–as members of Hollywood NOW, and previously from the Board of Stonewall where he exhibited similar abuse-of-power. Quite simply, John Erickson is unfit for public office. Or even to serve on the too-many boards that he has somehow managed to get a seat,… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean Kolodji

I am not sure what Rob is babbling about but he obviously thinks he is being clever. Unfortunately this is a serious issue and Erickson & Co. are undermining the good name and integrity of NOW. As a feminist who did clinic defense in the 1990s before this guy was born it saddens me that our local NOW chapter is being used as a political vehicle.

Brooke Eim
Brooke Eim
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Bergstein

Eyres sent out an email but it did not state any facts about the nature of the meeting being an endorsement meeting and was sent to cover their misconduct in deliberation for Sepi not to attend. It’s easy to state “we sent out an email” but Sepi did a no show to cover their tracks. They are SO busted and I can’t wait to put an end to this malicious and dirty politics of these toxic individuals.

Sean Kolodji
1 month ago
Reply to  Brooke Eim

Exactly. The email did not provide notice. Anyone who takes this endorsement process seriously is a fool. The other “endorsed” candidates should renounce the endorsements: care to comment John Heilman? Erickson continues to operate Hollywood NOW’s social media. Along with his other alter egos like “the Engaged Gaze” the Hollywood NOW twitter functions as a sock-puppet alter ego, liking his social media content and fawning over himself and his friends while spending little time on NOW’s core mission. One tell that lets us know Hollywood NOW’s twitter is still Erickson–its use of digital blackface. Erickson, a cis white man, loves… Read more »

Jonathan Hong Dowling
Jonathan Hong Dowling
1 month ago

We already have three crooked people with the name John on the West Hollywood City Council. We don’t need another crooked “Jon”. Let’s make certain this clown doesn’t get elected!

Connect the dots
Connect the dots
1 month ago

This all connects to Lindsey Horvath, her campaign manager Estavan Montemayor who works for David Ryu and John Erickson who is her best friend and took over at Hollywood Now. All climbing the ladder on our backs and public funds.. The most dishonest of all is this Erickson who would sell his next of kin for advancement.

WeHo Mary
WeHo Mary
1 month ago

This complaint isn’t surprising, considering the drama that exists in the lives of career non-profit workers. Having worked for one myself, I observed that these people are delusional babies, despite great intentions. Because they’re completely sheltered in non-profit fantasyland, they forget that real world implications exist, and things like this happen. Those that work on the actual front lines of issues of equality, in Corporate America, have to face reality in a much harsher way.

James Francis
James Francis
1 month ago

for a local chapter to dictate or control the narration of who answers to who is not forthcoming —why would they since they don’t have to answer to their members and those few are all self-appointed or rotate their roles. A select few who make decisions and endorsements privately and when members contest results or outcomes of endorsements—the members are shut out. No in fact the leadership is covering up the fact and hiding the fact that they in political channels and non profits ( in political jargon is called a back room deal in which people in power collude,… Read more »