Deliberate Dysfunction? KPFA's Decade of Financial Mismanagement

Deliberate Dysfunction?

KPFA's Decade of Financial Mismanagement

by Daniel Borgström
and Steve Gilmartin

January 2018

The Pacifica Radio Network nearly went into bankruptcy this month. The immediate cause was a court order to pay the Empire State Building
$1,800,000, more cash than Pacifica had. As bad as that may be, it's really a symptom of deeper problems in the network. It goes back a long way.

I attended a KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) meeting in 2005 when Max Blanchet (MBA in Finance from UC Berkeley) presented a
Minority Report, warning that KPFA was hiring too many paid staff The station was living beyond its means, and this couldn't last. Max's report and repeated warnings were ignored by the station's power clique, who were represented on the board by a slate which later stole the name "SaveKPFA," the SK.

Actually, that was not something new even then; it was the path Pacifica had been on since the 1990s, under the
Hijacker Regime. Events of 1999 did bring about important changes in governance, but the existing power clique remained in place, and they worked to continue KPFA's extravagant lifestyle. Not only that, they allied with a New York faction, the JUC (Justice & Unity), whose poor management and equally poor programming were depleting WBAI's finances and causing a drain on Pacifica. In that unholy alliance, the SK functioned as JUC's enablers and in turn received support on the Pacifica National Board (PNB) for their own dubious practices. Eventually, when crisis hit and Pacifica could no longer afford the waste, the SK loudly condemned WBAI. To hear the righteous SK-ers tell it, they themselves were innocent of any wrongdoing.

Since 2005, I've attended a huge number of LSB meetings, watching from a ringside seat, as the SK burned through KPFA's reserves, creating one financial fiasco after another, and generating a
tense work environment in which SK friends were rewarded and critics got penalized. The SK also blocked the hiring of competent and independent General Managers. What they did wasn't just damaging to KPFA; working with their allies at other Pacifica stations, they helped put the whole Pacifica network on the road to disaster.

We, the opposition, worked long and hard to effect a change in direction. Nevertheless, I feel that we have a share in the blame in that we didn't oppose the SK in a coherent and strategically effective way. While some activists saw, spoke and wrote about what was going on, our group seemed paralyzed by an unrealistic dream that, despite differences, we could work with the SK. "We all love KPFA," seemed to be the illusion -- which was true only in the sense that the wolf and the shepherd both love the sheep.

So the SK got away with their shenanigans. Time after time.

In 2009 the financial mismanagement resulted in a major crisis, and at this very time when cash was most desperately needed, it was discovered that a check for
$375,000 had been left in a drawer for thirteen months. Then GM Lemlem Rijio took the fall for that and was fired. But that's as far as the investigation ever went. Some of us suspected that others of the station's power clique were also involved, and that it was not an accident.

In a letter published in the SF BayView,
Max Blanchet expressed his belief that the mismanagement, including the misplaced check, "were maneuvers to force the station and Pacifica into bankruptcy with two goals in mind, namely to break the Pacifica network, set KPFA 'free' and do away with democratic governance." Max was not alone in thinking that; there are quite a number of articles from around 2010 expressing similar views. Everything we've seen in the following seven or eight years supports that conjecture, incident after incident.

And now today in 2018, the SK are openly calling for bankruptcy! What a coincidence! Who would've ever guessed!

KPFA has already lost much of its
antiwar voice, but under complete and total SK control the KPFA mission would be to actively promote "humanitarian" intervention and Democratic Party politics to progressives: phony "resistance" to Trump, resistance that does not oppose war.

That's where the SK would take KPFA, right into the arms of the neoliberal Democratic Party.

Now let's look at SK tactics, strategy. I mentioned the September 2005 minority report by Max Blanchet, the warning about excessive spending. Also in the same month of that same year, an email from Brian Edwards-Tiekert of SK was leaked; in it Brian had written to his group, "
How do we make our enemies own the problems that are to come?" and that has been SK strategy all these years. They'll screw things up, create chaos, and then foist the blame on their critics. For over a decade they've been accusing us of "infighting."

Our response to such accusations has been to try to make nice. "Let's not fix blame!" Today, we're being really nice, and the SK, being the reasonable and flexible people that they are, have shown themselves willing to accept former opponents into their circle -- provided of course that we give up the principles we've stood for and fought for all these years.

*** *** *** *** ***

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 two hundred affiliate stations.


STEVE GILMARTIN contributed to this article. He is a long time KPFA listener who took part in the 1999 struggle to rescue Pacifica from the Hijacker Regime.

the financial crisis was foreseen
Most of these articles were written a decade or more ago by people who saw the crisis as it was developing

What The Dickens Is Going On?
Pacifica In Exile
December 28, 2017

A Bad Budget
Minority Report of September 17, 2005
by Max Blanchet, LSB member
September 17, 2005

Stealing Save KPFA: erasing history
by Jeffrey Blankfort, Maria Gilardin, Curt Gray, Marianne Torres, & Sasha Futran
September 21, 2010

SEVEN LONG YEARS: 1992 - 1999
The Hijacker Regime
The Old Regime's Legacy at KPFA
by Maria Gilardin
August 2004

The history we live with
Pacifica in the 1990s
by Maria Gilardin

Lords Ladies vs. the Peasants
An allegory of the struggle at KPFA
Lords & Ladies vs. the Peasants
by Daniel Borgström

Old issues that have not gone away
from Robbie Osman
Host of Across the Great Divide
July 2004

The Pacifica Financial Crisis
Who Is Responsible? by Richard Phelps
May 2009

Ten years after the 1999 Hijack Attempt
by Richard Phelps
July 6, 2009

Incompetence or Malfeasance?
$375,000 check left in a drawer
Les Radke
January 3, 2010

Why are CWA and the "left" trying to take down KPFA?
by Carol Spooner
November 23, 2010

The near-disaster of 2010
by Virginia Browning
November 18, 2010

KPFA's Working Majority Gets Screwed by CWA Job Trust
by Isis Feral
December 7, 2010

The Brouhaha at KPFA
Max Blanchet to Michael Krasny
by Max Blanchet
November 10, 2010

A Few Comments
the 2010 Financial Crisis at Pacifica and bankruptcy
by Max Blanchet
January 10, 2011

bankruptcy scenarios
Scenarios of bankruptcy & sale of Pacifica stations
by Steve Brown, LSB member at WBAI
January 25, 2011

Save KPFA's Grover Norquist Solution
"Starving the Beast"
by Daniel Borgström
January 2011

SaveKPFA Cooks the Books
Tracy Rosenberg
September 16, 2014

SaveKPFA squanders $600,000
by Adrienne Lauby
November 2015

Brian's email of 2005
"how do we make our enemies own the problems that are to come?"
a leaked email written by Brian Edwards-Tiekert
September 2005

Preface to Brian Edward-Tiekert's Farewell Address
by Daniel Borgström
August 31, 2016

KPFA's Antiwar Voice
by Daniel Borgström
October 2017

Journalist Ann Garrison interviews Daniel Borgström of Veterans for Peace, East Bay Chapter #162
Black Agenda Report and Global Research.

Pacifica in Exile Newsletters
Pacifica in Exile is an independent publication that documents and records the activities of the Pacifica Radio Foundation
Pacifica in Exile