Public Comment

Is This Any Way to Run a KPFA Election?

By Donald Goldmacher
Thursday August 13, 2009 - 10:36:00 AM

Immediately following the election of 2004 I formed the Voting Rights Task Force of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club to demand that the vote in Ohio be challenged by Sen. Boxer. She ultimately did challenge the vote, which was historic, but failed to overturn a stolen election carried out by the secretary of state of Ohio along with local election officials. The task force continues to the present-day trying to improve the process of transparent, open and accurate elections, succeeding in convincing the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to remove electronic voting machines. 

As many readers of this paper know, elections for KPFA local station board members are currently underway. During the last few weeks, a series of events have occurred that are beginning to call into question the conduct of the election supervisors, both at KPFA and Pacifica. Several questionable actions seem to be targeting candidates who are part of the Concerned Listeners coalition, of which I am a member.  

Dan Siegel, the attorney who so famously fought to regain control of the Pacifica network for its members, and helped to institute democratic reforms at the network, is literally being censored by the national election supervisor. Dan is running for the KPFA Local Station Board as part of the Concerned Listeners coalition, and submitted a candidate statement critical of the current Pacifica national leadership. The national election supervisor is refusing to post that statement next to the other candidate statements on pacifica’s websites, and has threatened to keep it out of the printed election materials. This is not exactly what you would call free-speech. Parenthetically, it should be noted that in his statement Dan voiced strong criticism of the recent terminations without due process of four African-American men employed at other Pacifica stations and at the national office. 

The second example concerns Conn Hallinan, a frequent contributor to this newspaper who is currently the chair of the KPFA Local Station Board, and running for re-election on the concerned listeners slate. KPFA’s election supervisor recently told Hallinan that he would not be allowed speak during several on-air candidate forums. The reason: he was recently interviewed on KPFA air as an expert on the situation in Afghanistan.  

There is a rule that during KPFA elections a candidate cannot be on the air, as this would give that candidate an unfair advantage in air time. However, Hallinan was not a candidate at the time of his appearance. KPFA’S and Pacifica’s national elections supervisors are trying to bar him from candidates’ forums on the basis of a rule they invented, in contradiction to Pacifica’s bylaws, that says candidates cannot appear on KPFA’s airwaves even before they become candidates. They didn’t distribute this rule until after Hallinan actually appeared on KPFA. 

The final example concerns me. I too am a candidate for the KPFA local station board. Each candidate was initially told to record a one minute statement that will be broadcast over the next several months as part of the election process. When I arrived at the station to record my statement, I was informed that I was supposed to have an additional statement 30 seconds long ready to record as well. I protested that I had never received an e-mail to that effect, but nevertheless attempted to record one at that time. Upon emerging from the recording studio, I encountered the national election supervisor for Pacifica, Mr. Radke, and complained to him that this was shoddy election procedure. and insisted that I be given another opportunity to record my 30 second statement—he said he was uncertain whether that would be possible. 

I did receive an e-mail several days later informing me that I would be able to record a new 30-second statement. When I arrived at the KPFA studios at the time indicated in the e-mail sent to me by the local election supervisor, I quickly discovered that nobody at the station knew about this recording session. When I arrived home, I found an e-mail from the local election supervisor directing me to go to her home to record the 30-second statement there.  

You could chalk these incidents up to honest mistakes, or even incompetence. but the past conduct of Pacifica’s national election supervisor, Les Radke, suggests actual bias. During the last KPFA election, which Radke helped administer, one of the Concerned Listeners candidates witnessed Radke leafleting for another slate. During ballot counting, when he was told that Concerned Listener candidate Sherry Gendelman was the top vote-getter, witnesses say his response was to moan “oh no!”  

Concerned Listeners formed three years ago to strengthen KPFA and broaden its reach, and in every election, KPFA’s listeners have given Concerned Listeners a majority of the seats on the board. By running, Concerned Listeners tried to expand the membership of the local station board beyond the clique of board insiders that then controlled it, and to restore a respect for professionalism on a board that had too often attacked KPFA’s hard-working staff as “entrenched.” That makes the apparent efforts to target our candidates with censorship and arbitrary policies all the more disappointing. 


Donald Goldmacher is a candidate for the KPFA local station board.