Conn Hallinan Misinforms Doug Henwood

a revealing email exchange

commentary by Daniel Borgström
September 2009

Conn Hallinan is a respected Bay Area progressive who writes a column on foreign affairs for the Berkeley Daily Planet. However, there's another side to Conn's politics, a seamy one, which comes out in the struggle at KPFA. He's a member of the "Concerned Listeners" (CL, now "Save KPFA"), the faction representing the interests of the status quo group which dominates the station. Using questionable tactics in the 2006 & 2007 elections, the CL'ers gained a majority of seats on the KPFA Board of Directors, and chose Conn as their chair.

In this summer's KPFA election, the CL'ers have (again) engaged in dubious tactics, such as falsely informing the Berkeley Daily Planet (Aug 6, 2009) that Pacifica raided KPFA's funds. The report was exposed as disinformation, and refuted in the following issue of the newspaper (Aug 13). Conn Hallinan's initial role, if any, is not known. But in an email exchange (below), he made use of that lie--after it was exposed as false.

Normally, Conn tries to project an image of staying above the fray, and, as chair of the board, of playing the role of honest broker. That's his public façade, the one he seems to cultivate, despite whatever goes on behind the scenes.

When lies must be told, it's usually someone else who tells them. Often that somebody is Conn's brother Matthew Hallinan, who writes some of the CL's nastier hit pieces. Conn avoids the nasty stuff, presumably not wishing to tarnish his own credibility.

So, it came as a surprise to see an exchange of emails in which Conn Hallinan misinforms a supporter who's endorsing the CL'ers (now "Save KPFA").

The misinformed supporter is Doug Henwood, editor of the "Left Business Observer." Henwood is also a long-time show host at WBAI, KPFA's Pacifica sister station in New York. For several years WBAI was grossly mismanaged by a faction calling itself the "Justice & Unity Coalition" (JUC), whom Henwood passionately detested. The JUC mismanagement, Henwood wrote, "threatened to drag the whole five-station network down." He was delighted to see iED Grace Aaron intervene. "Aaron decided there'd been enough of this, and has essentially taken control of the station. The JUC hacks are on the run, and it's a beautiful sight." Henwood says on his website.

Of course the JUC were allies of the CL, Conn's group. It was an unholy alliance whereby the CL and the JUC protected each other from scrutiny and accountability over a period of several years. So Henwood, glad to be rid of the JUC, should hardly be endorsing the CL, and in this email exchange several people, both here in California as well as in NY, are weighing in to say so.

In fact, it should also have been obvious to Conn Hallinan that both the JUC and their CL allies were on the wrong track. Instead, Conn stepped in and wrote to Doug, misinforming him, "Pacifica also tried to do an old fashioned smash and grab on KPFA's funds."

Conn must certainly have known that was a lie. He had chaired the LSB meeting (of August 8, 2009) where it was exposed as a lie, and he also should have been aware of later Berkeley Daily Planet articles refuting it. There were other sources as well, including inside ones. This is a subject where Conn Hallinan, careful journalist as well as board chair, ought to know the facts.

An intriguing thing here is, not just that Conn is giving out misinformation, but that he's misinforming a fellow insider, a person who presumably knows him personally and trusts his judgment. Doug Henwood endorsed the CL.

All of this makes the following email exchange intriguing and revealing. The exchange begins with an email from Doug Henwood, followed by one from Joe Wanzala (Vice-Chair of the PNB), then by Conn Hallinan, followed by several board members of WBAI in NY: Jamie Ross, Carolyn Birden, and, finally, Shawn Casey O'Brien at KPFK in Los Angeles.

KPFA listener/subscriber

Also see: Intimidation Between the Minutes

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from DOUG HENWOOD at WBAI, the Pacifica station in NY
May 9, 2009

I started doing commentaries on Samori Marksman's show on WBAI almost 20 years ago, and I've been hosting "Behind the News" for more than 10. Ever since Samori's show, the station has been adrift, losing listeners and gradually growing broke (and threatening to drag the rest of Pacifica into the mire).

I'm responding to a call circulated by the so-called Justice and Unity Coalition to write you criticizing what they like to call a "coup." What they call a "coup" looks to me like a badly needed intervention to prevent the death of WBAI and any collateral damage done to Pacifica. They are tireless defenders of the sick status quo, and use charges of racism in the most unprincipled fashion to try to deflect any criticism of that status quo. I want to assure you that they do not speak for all, and perhaps even all that many, producers and other staff at WBAI, nor does their associated group, the Unpaid Staff Organizing Committee. Nor is there much of a "community" behind them, despite their claims to the contrary.

I'm one of the founding members of the WBAI Producers Guild, which is trying to reverse the sad decline of a once-great radio station - one that reached me back in the late 1960s as an alienated teenager in the New Jersey suburbs and put me in touch with a political and cultural world I had no idea existed. I hope that WBAI can revive itself and perform that work for a whole new generation or two.

I, and I'm sure my colleagues in the Producers Guild, are eager to turn this thing around.

Doug Henwood
Producer, Behind the News
Thursdays, 5-6 PM, WBAI, New York 99.5 FM
Saturdays, 10-11 AM, KPFA, Berkeley 94.1 FM

Left Business Observer
242 Greene Ave - #1C
Brooklyn, NY 11238-1398 USA

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August 24, 2009

On Aug 24, 2009, at 6:56 PM, Joseph Wanzala wrote:
Hi Doug,

In the past, we have engaged in considerable discussion on your Left Business Observer listserve about Pacifica in general and WBAI in particular. While you have never been a big fan of Pacifica's democratic governance structure, and we tend to differ on our political views of the world in general, I think we found some common ground in our view of the Justice and Unity Coalition and their role in governance and management at WBAI. So I while I was not surprised when I saw this note from you, I was struck by your endorsement of the group, the Concerned Listeners, whose members have publicly disassociated themselves from the efforts you applaud here, and one individual associated with them Dan Siegel has even described the recent changes in management at WBAI as 'ethnic cleansing'. During the candidate debates on KPFA on Saturday, during which your name was mentioned as an endorser, it became apparent that the Concerned Listeners campaign theme is that this board, whose work you applaud, is an 'out of control board', just like the hijacker board of 1999 and must be similarly vanquished - which presumably means that if they are successful in the elections and their JUC allies also gain a majority of seats around the network, they would re-take control of the national board and undo what you describe as 'badly needed' changes at WBAI.... You may of course not be aware of the dynamics at KPFA, but I thought you might want to keep them in mind. While paradoxes abound within Pacifica; this is among the more intriguing....

Joe w.

Joseph Wanzala
PNB, Vice Chair

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August 24, 2009

Dear Doug:

What Joe fails to mention is that Concerned Listeners members Sherry Gendleman and Brian Edward-Tierket first took on WBAI and forced through $500,000 in cuts. We have consistently been critical of WBAI management. These two Concerned Listeners members also forced Pacifica to cut back as well. Joe and his allies have since padded up the Pacifica national office without bothering to actually advertise jobs. Support Grace Aaron and you get a fat position. Pacifica also tried to do an old fashioned smash and grab on KPFA's funds (we are the only station with a reserve, about $320,000) and when Concerned Listeners blew the whistle on them, they tried to cover their tracks. But we have the facts and figures. Joe and his supporters voted against a CL resolution in the last Local Station Board meeting that demanded Pacifica practice responsible budgeting and clear any transfer of over $10,000 with the Pacifica National Board and the National Finance Committee. Of course Joe opposed it: it put a severe crimp in the ability of Pacifica's leadership to get their hands on KPFA's money.

Joe and his allies took a beating two elections in a row at KPFA, so they have simply shifted their focus: Take over from the national level. That is what is afoot. In 1999 it was from the right. This time it is a combination of sectarians and plain old fashioned career builders. What Joe and his friends would like is to get rid of the professional staff and turn KPFA into a sort of karaoke radio. And Dan Siegel wasn't talking about WBAI but a pattern of firing African-Americans. Joe has his sights set on our own General Manager, a woman of color. The Concerned Listener slogan is "Quality radio with a radical edge." We think we need the kind of programming that will increase our base and widen our influence. We have the support of most the full-time staff, virtually every labor organization in our area, the founder of Z magazine, leaders of the peace and environmental movement, and leading cultural workers. You can check our our program and endorsers at Concernedlisteners. org. Joe's folks got zip because they are a narrow group of sectarians. Sorry to pull you into this madness (it was me who mentioned your name), but I think the politics of Concerned Listeners and Doug Henwood match perfectly. I was (and still am) a subscriber to Left Business Observer, and fall back on your analysis for my own columns for the Institute for Policy Study. We also have a very different world view than Joe, and thank God!

Conn Hallinan
Chair of LSB, KPFA

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August 25, 2009

Dear Conn,

As a member of the PNB and national finance committee last year, I have to take issue with this statement: "Concerned Listeners members Sherry Gendelman and Brian Edward-Tierket first took on WBAI and forced through $500,000 in cuts." The fact is cutting WBAI's budget was supported by all parties in last year's budget process. Brian and Sherry didn't have to force anything. My question is, why wasn't WBAI's budget cut in prior years, when it was clear the income projections were unrealistic.

In any event, I trust you all are pleased and relieved that WBAI has been able to step up fundraising dramatically since May, under new management. If this continues the threat to KPFA reserves posed by WBAI's insolvency will disappear.


Jamie Ross
Jamie is the Chair of the NFC.

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Dear Doug,

Conn Hallinan wrote, "I think the politics of Concerned Listeners and Doug Henwood match perfectly" but all I can say is, I fervently hope not! Hallinan's post is full of disinformation, and in fact the JUC on the West Coast has been an extremely destructive element on the PNB. Joe has done an excellent job of trying to keep Pacifica on an

> even keel despite the machinations of the CL members who have worked
> very hard to undermine reformation at, especially, WBAI.

The charges Hallinan makes here have been refuted elsewhere, and betray not only ignorance of the facts but a deliberate misinterpretation of events. Joe and his supporters, as he calls them, have helped stabilize the network, supported needed reforms and pruning of drains on the foundation, and contributed mightily to the work of the new interim management despite the heavy handed attempts of Gendelman and Edwards-Tiekert, working in concert with the JUC in New York and elsewhere, to weaken the network and effect the failure of WBAI.

Carolyn Birden
WBAI, PNB Board Member

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August 25, 2009

Talk about a Conn job! I don't know what this guy means when he talks about $500,000 in cuts. Sherry and her crew were around for over five years as WBAI sunk into a million dollars worth of debt that nearly sunk the network.

Before we talk about cuts at WBAI, the more relevant question for the management of KPFA is why haven't they, like every other sister station, made staff cuts in order to cut their costs? They have a bloated, top heavy staff who are part of the CL, because their jobs depend on it. Talk about fat positions.

No sacrifice by KPFA, just every other sister station, huh, Conn?

As for his erroneous assertion of a smash and grab. The FACT is the PNB just returned $300,000 dollars to KPFA with $20,000 extra in earned interest and restructured the debt so that we are no longer paying Wells Fargo to hold KPFA's money.

As for Dan Siegel. There's a guy who appears to have cost Pacifica millions with his aggressive legal tactics that almost always end up settling on the courthouse steps and for which he turns in unitemized bills for hundreds of thousands more. Great work if you can get it. And don't forget, due to Dan's numerous conflicts of interest our insurance company had him removed from a case down here in LA.

Dan's use of the term "ethic cleaning" when analogizing our new management moves is not only wrong, but disturbing in that such a comparison cheapens and belittles the deaths of 100,000 of innocents victims of real ethnic cleaning.
Using such horrific comparisons for petty partisan gain, really says something about the shallowness and desperation of Dan & his allies.

What really occurred with these changes has been more aptly termed "gender cleansing" with a man of color simply being replaced by a women of color -- a fact that Conn and his allies always seem to overlook.

Say all you want about who supports who, as this was the same kind of cheap talk that occurred by the JUC & CL during the last election -- before the sane and rational insurgents took back the PNB and most local boards.

A change I remind you that has turned WBAI and WPFW around and, for the first time in three years, led to successful fund drives that have been hundreds of thousands over their stated goals.

You know this is a real Conn job, when he fails to mention that.

Shawn Casey O'Brien
KPFK Staff Rep & PNB member

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KPFA Charges Pacifica With Raid on Station's Funds
by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Berkeley Daily Planet
Thursday August 06, 2009

KPFA Funds Not Being Transferred to Pacifica
By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Berkeley Daily Planet
Thursday August 13, 2009


Crying Wolf at KPFA
by Akio Tanaka (ICR)
August 13, 2009
Berkeley Daily Planet, reader commentary article

KPFA: Let's Get Real
by Sasha Futran (ICR)
September 10, 2009
Berkeley Daily Planet, reader commentary article


The Pacifica Financial Crisis: Who is Responsible?
by Richard Phelps (People's Radio)
Berkeley Daily Planet, reader commentary article

The "Concerned Listeners" & Dan Siegel
from elections report by Casey Peters, National Elections Supervisor of 2007

Community Radio at the Crossroads: The Significance of the KPFA Board
by Joe Wanzala, Shahram Aghamir, Tracy Rosenberg and Anthony Fest
Thursday September 17, 2009
Berkeley Daily Planet, reader commentary article

KPFA: Lords and Ladies vs. the Peasants
by Daniel Borgström
August 27, 2009
Berkeley Daily Planet, reader commentary article

New Leadership in Pacifica Radio
by Daniel Borgström

Daniel's Recommendations for KPFA's Board of Directors

UPDATE August 2010

The "Concerned Listeners" have appropriated the name "Save KPFA" -- a name belonging to the group of activists who fought for listener democracy during most of the 1990's. Their name "Save KPFA" is legendary, inappropriate for the "Concerned Listeners", a group whose purpose is diametrically opposite.

Save KPFA--hijacking a legendary name

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Updates, reports & essays about KPFA & Pacifica Foundation Radio at

KPFA 94.1 FM is one of five stations of the Pacifica radio network which are located in major cities across the country. The other stations are WBAI 99.5 in New York, WPFW 89.3 in Washington DC, KPFT 90.1 in Houston, and KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles. There are also about 160 affiliate stations.