HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT-On the evening of June 1, in Washington D.C., Rahul Dubey could see trouble brewing outside his home.
Dozens of police officers in riot gear had surrounded a group of protesters who were taking a peaceful stand against racial injustice, triggered by the brutal death of George Floyd. Dubey sensed that the police were going to pounce, with the possibility of cracked skulls, broken limbs, maybe even death. He couldn’t let that happen. Dubey opened the door to his home and yelled at the protesters to come in, giving them shelter just in the nick of time. Within hours, Dubey was declared a national hero for his humanity and quick action. Steve Maviglio wasn’t impressed.
“I own that home,” Maviglio tweeted. “A real hero pays his rent to the owner of the home so I can pay taxes that support our community.”
Maviglio, who’s Dubey’s landlord, took more potshots in a Washington Post article, saying his tenant hadn’t paid rent in three months. Dubey, who lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, insisted that wasn’t true.
From Washington D.C. to California, people couldn’t believe Maviglio could be so heartless — and oblivious. The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op even asked him to resign from the board. But they didn’t know Maviglio’s track record of ignoring the plight of ordinary people. His mean-spirited slams against Dubey weren’t shocking.
For years, Steve Maviglio, president of Forza Communications, has been a high-priced political consultant and spokesman in Sacramento. He’s made a handsome living by stopping the reform of predatory practices carried out by Big Business against the middle and working class — from fighting the regulation of skyrocketing health insurance premiums to killing Proposition 10, the 2018 ballot measure that would have allowed communities to expand rent control and rein in corporate landlord greed in California. While people struggled to make ends meet, Maviglio stood on the side of corporations, watching seniors on fixed incomes and hard-working families get buried by debt and mounting living costs.
In another case, in 2017, dozens of elected officials throughout California slammed AT&T for withholding services and laying off thousands of workers while raking in huge profits. “AT&T should be innovating to create more good-paying jobs, not resorting to corporate games that shortchange workers and the communities it serves,” said Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
Guess who was paid to put a spin on AT&T’s obvious greed? Steve Maviglio.
According to Capitol Watchdog, a project of Consumer Watchdog, Maviglio has a sordid reputation: he “has a history of some bald-faced lies, including disseminating fake news videos with a phony photo portraying the house of Consumer Watchdog’s founder as a Soprano-like castle. Ironically, Maviglio actually owns a castle in Italy, named San Stefano, and his industry paydays help keep the lights on.”
Maviglio is at it again. He’s now a hired hand for the No on Prop 21 campaign, funded by corporate landlords and led by the California Apartment Association, the landlord lobbying powerhouse that’s aggressively opposed renter protections for years.
Proposition 21, similar to Prop 10, aims to urgently address California’s housing affordability crisis — fueled by corporate landlord greed — by putting sensible limits on unfair, sky-high rents. With mass unemployment and lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prop 21 will help protect middle- and working-class residents from eviction, homelessness, and predatory landlords. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and numerous others strongly back Prop 21.
Maviglio and the California Apartment Association despise the initiative: their deep-pocketed clients in Big Real Estate would no longer make billions by charging excessively high rents.
Corporate landlords have been paying Steve Maviglio a pretty penny. So far, he’s raked in a staggering $142,500 in consulting fees from No on Prop 21: Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association, according to state filings. That campaign committee, run by a secretive “executive committee” made up of powerful real estate insiders, is calling the shots to stop Prop 21.
To date, Californians for Responsible Housing has collected $26.5 million in campaign cash from Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities, UDR, Invitation Homes, and many other corporate landlords. These are among the largest landlords in the United States, and Maviglio, as the spokesman for No on Prop 21, is their expensive mouthpiece.
As the Prop 21 battle heats up, housing justice activists, who battled Maviglio during Prop 10, expect the No on 21 spokesman to do and say anything to stop the ballot measure.
Already, Maviglio and the No on 21 campaign are framing Prop 21 as the wrong solution for the housing affordability crisis. It’s a laughable argument. Not only because top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that sensible rent limits will be key to stabilize the crisis, but also because Maviglio and his corporate clients are taking the position that they care about, and want to solve, the housing affordability crisis. Truly ridiculous.
As anyone knows, the only thing corporate giants Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities, and Invitation Homes care about is making gigantic profits — no matter the human cost. It’s a major reason why California is still mired in a housing affordability crisis.
When Maviglio opens his mouth on the campaign trail this fall, Californians will ask themselves a simple question: can I trust anything this guy says about Prop 21? Looking at Maviglio’s track record of shilling for Big Business, the answer is only too obvious.
(Patrick Range McDonald, the author of this article, is an award-winning reporter and advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right. This piece also appeared on Medium.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.