Fiscal Irresponsibility Threatens Pacifica Radio Network
October 22, 2001
Fiscal Irresponsibility Threatens Pacifica Radio Network
Anti-Union Lawyers, PR Firms Eating Up Listener Dollars
Bills Go Unpaid, But Executive Pay Skyrockets
NEW YORK, (Oct. 22) - As Pacifica Radio's embattled leadership continues to pay a bevy of high priced lawyers, public relations firms, and security companies to maintain their tenuous grip on power, basic bills crucial for operations at the five-station network are not being paid.
Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley now has 125 unpaid and overdue bills totaling more than $100,000, according to KPFA's afternoon news show Flashpoints and the http://www.savepacifica.net web site. This includes an unpaid electrical bill of $9,400 to Pacific Gas Electric (PG). Pacifica stations KPFK in Los Angeles and WBAI in New York also have many of their bills unpaid, according to staff at those stations.
"Listener money is being squandered by an inept and self-serving Pacifica executive leadership," said Juan Gonzalez, the coordinator of the Pacifica Campaign. "By putting lawyers first, and staff and listeners later, the present Pacifica management and Board leadership have abrogated their responsibility as stewards of the oldest listener-sponsored network in the country. They need to resign immediately."
In Pacifica's FY2000 (October 1-September 30), the network spent a staggering $500,000 of listener money on anti-union law firms and $440,000 more on security. Dissident Board members estimate this year's legal bills have already topped one million dollars, including hundreds of thousands paid to the anti-union law firm of Pacifica Board Secretary John Murdock -- Epstein, Becker Green.
Meanwhile, an investigation by the Pacifica Campaign has revealed that as the network plunged deeper into crisis the past couple of years, executive salaries skyrocketed.
The network's IRS tax records obtained by the campaign show that the pay of Pacifica's top executives, including KPFK General Manager Mark Schubb, Los Angeles, KPFT General Manager Garland Ganter, Houston, Texas, and Executive Director Bessie Wash, climbed an average of 30 percent in the one year period from 1999 to 2000.
Financial records also show that Pacifica's national administrative office, which oversees the five-station network, spent a staggering 28 cents out of every dollar raised by network staff in 2000. In fact, the national office budget in 2000 exceeded the budgets of four of the five Pacifica stations.
But while the law firms, the growing Pacifica bureaucracy, and the Pacifica executives are being handsomely rewarded, Pacifica's five stations are suffering.
The financial crisis comes at KPFA despite the fact that the station has exceeded all on-air fundraising goals for the past two years, and should show a surplus of more than $200,000 in its accounts. KPFK has also generated surpluses in the past. But these funds are now being misappropriated by Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash and the Pacifica Board leadership.
Wash has reportedly ordered KPFA to undertake an immediate on-air fundraising drive, and has threatened to send in scab broadcasters to do on-air fundraising should KPFA staff refuse. At KPFK, the fund drive will reportedly begin in November, when its transmitter is repaired.
"Why should listeners donate more money to KPFA, or any Pacifica station, if the money goes directly to Pacifica national executives who then misuse it?" asked Bernard White, the former program director of Pacifica station WBAI and now a Pacifica Campaign staffer.
According to IRS Form 990, Los Angeles station manager Mark Schubb's salary shot up from $56,000 in 1999 to nearly $72,000 in 2000. Chief financial officer Sandra Rosas's salary hit $75,000 in 2000, up from $58,000 the year before. (Rosas has since left the network). And the salary of WPFW General Manager Bessie Wash, who was installed as Pacifica's Executive Director in March 1999, rose from $55,000 to nearly $75,000 in 2000.
The salary increases came as the very same Pacifica's executives steered the network into what The Los Angeles Times has called "chaos," marked by wholesale firings and bannings, union-busting, censorship, and even the shutdown of Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley for three weeks in the summer of 1999.
In December 2000, Pacifica executives launched the "Christmas Coup" at WBAI in New York City, changing all the locks overnight, bringing in security guards, and firing and banning more than 24 long-time producers and volunteers.
As a result, WBAI's audience ratings have dropped dramatically and so has its on-air fundraising. WBAI used to be the largest fundraiser in the network, bringing in anywhere between $800,000 and a one million dollars per drive. But in 2001, its drives have brought no more than $300,000-$400,000, according to staff at the station.
With the crisis, expenses at Pacifica's bloated national bureaucracy in Washington, DC, have skyrocketed. The national office spent some $3 million out of a total budget of $10.8 million in FY2000, roughly the same budget as Pacifica's then largest station, WBAI in New York City.
These expenses are expected to have sharply increased over the past year. This summer, the network fired its old lead law firm and hired some of the most expensive and influential Beltway consultants and lawyers. These include President Clinton's impeachment trial lawyer, Greg Craig of Williams Connolly, and the PR firm of Westhill Partners, whose clients have included tobacco giants and alleged war criminals.
Figures for Pacifica FY2001, which just ended in September, have not yet been released.
The Pacifica Campaign is a grass-roots organization representing listeners and staff alike, fighting to preserve Pacifica's 50-year tradition of progressive, community-based radio.
For more info go to: http://www.pacificacampaign.org
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