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Indybay Feature

Is Something Rotten In The State Of Pacifica Elections?

by Akio Tanaka
Let the will of the members be heard and may democracy prevail.
democracy.png
The Pacifica Foundation, with the five stations around the country that it owns (KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, KPFT in Houston, WBAI in New York City, and WPFW in Washington DC), and several hundred affiliate stations, was founded on the principles of journalistic independence, speaking truth to power, listener sponsorship, and promotion of non-violent solutions to conflict.

Twenty years ago Bylaw changes were put in place so that members could democratically choose board members and to allow member-initiated reforms.

But the Foundation is now controlled by Board members who work to protect parochial interests (i.e. those of just one or two stations) above all else and are willing to interfere in elections to keep themselves in power. This is all happening while Pacifica is losing many listeners and donors because of programming they don't like and will not support. Meanwhile, some board members push to have more home-shopping network programming that is not only antithetical to Pacifica's educational mission, but further drives away supporters. Finally, through election intereference, they're thwarting the efforts of members and staff who are seeking change.

The following are areas of particular concern which illustrate a troubling pattern surrounding the 2021 Bylaws Referendum and the 2021 Delegates election at Pacifica.

- Election interference - We believe Pacifica misinterpreted its own Bylaws and California law by finding an invalid reason to ignore how the majority of members voted in the New Bylaws referendum
- More election interference - We believe Pacifica also misinterpreted its own Bylaws and California law by disqualifying four candidates who had not violated any of its Fair Campaign Provisions - and after voting had ended
- Pacifica did something very similar in 2010 with the same National Election Supervisor, and the courts reversed the National Election Supervisor's actions

———-
(1) 2010 KPFA Staff Delegates Election

In order to understand what took place in the 2021 elections, it is first instructive to look at the 2010 KPFA staff Delegates election for the Local Station Board.

The 2010 KPFA Delegates election was overseen by National Election Supervisor, Renee Asteria, who also oversaw the 2021 elections.

During the 2010 KPFA Delegates election there were two factions running candidates, Save KPFA (SK) and Independents for Community Radio (ICR)

National Election Supervisor announced the results of the initial vote count for the KPFA 2010 Staff Delegates Election on October 11, 2010 - indicating that Shahram Aghamir, David Gans and Lewis Sawyer had won the Staff Election, with SK candidate, Lewis Sawyer winning his seat by a close margin over the ICR candidate, Frank Sterling.

On October 12, 2010, Tracy Rosenberg, who was the leader of the ICR faction, in her capacity as member of the Pacifica National Board Election Committee, moved that “The Election Committee strongly recommend to the National Election Supervisor that the 2010 KPFA staff election uncertified results be invalidated due to gross and repeated violation of the Fair Campaign Provisions, and the elections redone prior to November 15, 2010.” The Election Committee and the Pacifica National Board passed the motion.

On November 8, 2010, the National Election Supervisor retroactively disqualified three staff voters. The removal of the the three staff votes resulted in SK candidate Lewis Sawyer’s seat going to ICR candidate Frank Sterling.

The disqualified staff members and Lewis Sawyer sued Pacifica, Renee Asteria, and Frank Sterling to have their votes for Delegates to the Local Station Board counted, and to have the duly elected Delegate seated. The court ruled in their favor, reinstating Lewis Sawyer as the Delegate.

The court affirmed the fundamental right of members to have their votes counted, and to have the duly elected Delegates seated.

Thus, it appears that the National Election Supervisor interfered in the democratic vote of the staff members, which the Court subsequently reversed.

(2) Fast forward to the 2021 KPFK Listener Delegates Election.

The 2021 KPFK Local Station Board Delegates election was overseen by National Election Supervisor, Renee Asteria-Penaloza and Pacifica Corporate Counsel, Arthur Schwartz.

A few months before this election, Pacifica members voted on a New Bylaws proposed by New Day Pacifica. KPFK Delegate candidates were divide between those that supported the New Bylaws proposal and those who were opposed to it.

After the voting ended and counting of the vote had began, the National Election Supervisor and the Pacifica Corporate Counsel retroactively disqualified 4 candidates endorsed by New Day Pacifica. The disqualification effectively disenfranchised the voters who voted for those 4 candidates.

The reason given for the disqualification was that they were endorsed by New Day Pacifica who had mailed postcards, using a Pacifica Foundation mailing list, which also solicited funds to defend the members' vote on the New Bylaws referndum held in June.

The Fair Campaign Provisions say, “In event of any violation of these provisions for fair campaigning, … National Election Supervisor shall determine … an appropriate remedy, up to and including disqualification of the candidate(s)”; however, the reason given is not covered by the Fair Campaign Provisions, so there were no legitimate grounds for the disqualification under those Provisions.

Also, revoking the online and mailed written ballots of the voters who voted for the 4 candidates violated California Corporation Code 5513(d) which says: “Unless otherwise provided in the articles [of incorporation] or bylaws, a written ballot may not be revoked.” This was similar to the violation the court reversed in the 2010 KPFA staff Delegate election.

Subsequent to the KPFK delegates election, KPFK's new Local Station Board held a National Board Directors election. So the disqualification of the 4 candidates had further negative ramifications.

Thus, it appears that the National Election Supervisor and the Pacifica Corporate Counsel interfered in the democratic vote of the listener members which has had serious consequences

(3) 2021 Bylaws Referendum

More consequential than the 2021 KPFK Delegates election was the June 2021 Bylaws election.

The Bylaws referendum election was also overseen by National Election Supervisor, Renee Asteria-Penaloza and Pacifica Corporate Counsel, Arthur Schwartz.

Believing the current Bylaws to have been “demonstrably and quantitatively destructive”, a group of members, New Day Pacifica, proposed changing those Bylaws.

In June, the members voted for the New Bylaws, 6820 Yes to 5471 No (55% to 45%).
- Listener members voted 6640 Yes and 5216 No.
- Staff members voted 180 Yes and 255 No.

The overall vote showed the New Bylaws won by a solid democratic majority, but National Election Supervisor, ruled the referendum lost claiming that the proposed new Bylaws required separate approval of both staff and listeners.

Pacifica Corporate Counsel gave two arguments.
(a) A December 4, 2020 agreement between New Day Pacifica and the Pacifica Foundation allegedly stipulated “approval being contingent on majority approval from each group.”
(b) The Bylaws require separate approval of staff and listeners.

Neither argument is valid:
(a) The clause “approval being contingent on majority approval from each group” was not in the December 4 agreement. The agreement said only that the 2021 election would be governed by the same rule as the 2020 election the previous year, which would include being subject to applicable California Law and the current Bylaws.
(b) The current Bylaws say a proposed change in the Bylaws require separate approval of a class (e.g. staff) only if that the proposal “materially” and “adversely” affect the rights of that class as to voting or transfer in a manner “different” than such action affects another class. As detailed legal arguments of New Day Pacifica will show, these criteria were not met.

Thus, it appears that the National Election Supervisor and the Pacifica Corporate Counsel incorrectly counted the votes in the Bylaws referendum, and unfairly disqualified KPFK Delegate candidates endorsed by New Day Pacifica. These apparent attempts to keep the same dysfunctional governing structure in place, and the unwarranted disqualification of KPFK Local Station Board candidates, do not serve the best interests of the network.

Let the will of the members be heard and may democracy prevail.

—-
Akio Tanaka is a Delegate of the KPFA Local Station Board, and was the Secretary of the Pacifica National Board in 2017.
by Virginia
There is more to say, but it will have to wait. First of all, the author of this article supported the 2010 action he now seems to decry. The courts were wrong then. 2nd, there WERE repeated fair election violations in that election, which many of us remember very well - until recently Mr. Tanaka also did. Perhaps his brain is failing him here - including but not only that prime-time hosts took to the air and disseminated lies about their opponents. Whether they'd been lies or not though, they were not allowed to use their powerful airtime for electioneering - and they did this in spades. They went to every city council in the bay area, in fact, with their lies. Mr. Tanaka himself created charts showing their statistics to be untrue.
What's rotten is this eternal deception about "overriding democracy" which courts have affirmed over and over is just piffle. But like the supposed issue of "selling a building" (that was long scheduled to be sold and a much more appropriate one afforded in its place actually) the deceivers/pretenders/ "Protectors" here know that if you tell uninformed people the same thing enough times, it sticks. It doesn't hurt that paid beneficiaries of the more neo-liberal-leaning news shows etc. are so media savvy they've convinced some big names to join them - and of course those names gain media access...
by Virginia
Just in case you aren't clear, my reference to "neo-liberal" above is really the newish word for what is now to the right of what used to be "conservative." It's little different from "neo-conservative" except that neoliberals appear to accept cultural goods such as a woman's right to control her own body and non-whites right to equal access (or even reparations - though in that neo-liberals are probably not actually supporting that), whereas "neoconservatives" are against these things. Even in terms of minority justice and access however, if it challenges economic interests, neoliberals find ways of scuttling and hiding their true agenda. Both groups support policies money-mountaining society's wealth into the hands of a tiny fraction of the world's controllers and savagers. They are not revolutionary or progressive - or democratic (though many are in the Democratic and some are in the Republican Parties).
by Akio Tanaka
I agree that there should be more radical independent voices.
I agree that there have been campaign violations.
I am addressing something more concerning.
by Sometimes You Lose
It's getting interesting to see how long Aki Tanaka will keep up this endless whining campaign about his losing campaign to change Pacifica's bylaws and make himself an officer of a multimillion dollar foundation.

Three motions offered in court by New Day Pacifica. Three motions denied. You lost every single one. Because you're wrong.

What it comes down to is that New Day Pacifica failed to do the outreach and communication the group needed to do with Pacifica's workers in New York, so they lost an election.

That is what happens when you ignore your constituents and their concerns in an election. You don't win, you lose.

The WBAI staff had every reason to be mistrustful. In October of 2019, their station was raided, all original programming taken off the air, the entire staff fired and barred from entering, and the broadcasting equipment destroyed. You wouldn't like that if it happened to KPFA, and factually the Bay Area didn't like it in 1999,

The people who wanted to be the new board officers of Pacifica, like Jan Goodman and you, Aki, spoke favorably about that raid and occupation and then you expected the folks at WBAI to vote for you anyway. It's not a shock that they didn't.

Now you understand why you lost.

Don't raid and shut down community radio stations. EVER.
by Akio Tanaka
Being a secretary is a thankless job.
by Elizabeth Milos
I invite readers to my article in response, entitled, "With 'Protectors' like these....The fight to Rescue Pacifica from the KPFA Pretenders.
Unmasking the KPFA "Protectors" attempts to Shock Doctrine Pacifica Foundation's assets into receivership and gain full control over the last remaining independent terrestrial radio network in the US.

(4) 2019 KPFA Delegates Election. 

The 2019 KPFA Local Station Board Delegates election was overseen by National Election Supervisor, Renee Asteria-Penaloza, just as in 2010 and 2021 elections.

In the 2019 election there where two factions running, Rescue Pacifica and United for Independent Radio.

There is evidence that a non-neutral person associated with the Rescue Pacifica faction was assisting the National Election Supervisor throughout the election.

During the election the National Election Supervisor threatened to disqualify the entire United for Independent Radio (UIR) slate, for a statement that was made by an individual who was not a candidate.

These issues raise serious questions about election neutrality.

—-
The 2019 KPFA Delegates election illustrate the same troubling pattern.

—-
The 2019 KPFA Local Station Board Delegates election was also overseen by National Election Supervisor, Renee Asteria-Penaloza.

In the 2019 election, there where two factions: Rescue Pacifica and United for Independent Radio (UIR).

In 2019, Tracy Rosenberg was involved with the Rescue Pacifica faction.


Before the election, National Election Supervisor sent an email to the former Executive Director, to set up a conference call. In the email Renee introduced her selection of Tracy Rosenberg as the person who would be her “right hand throughout the election”, even though Tracy was involved with Rescue Pacifica.


On October 17, 2019 after voting was over, an email was sent by the NES to all ten UIR candidates with an election ruling about a complaint made against them. The email contained a threat of possible disqualification of the entire UIR slate because of a complaint made about an email supporting UIR candidates. The email in question was written by a person who was not a candidate.  The NES ruling on the complaint stated:
“We understand that all of the candidates affiliated with the slate may not have had access to or consented to the content sent out on 8-15-2019, but we are unable to be more precise since there is no attribution for the email text beyond "United For Independent Radio”…. ”The NES finds that the United for Independent Radio slate slandered their opposition as anti-union on false grounds in one of their campaign mailings.”

Under threat of disqualification of their slate of candidates, UIR did carry out the remedy prescribed by the National Election Supervisor.

——
National Election Supervisor had no basis for disqualifying the UIR candidates.

- Adjudicating the truth of falseness of anyone's campaign statements is well beyond the purvue of the NES. It's not covered or adressed in the Pacifica Bylaws Fair Campaign Provisions.
- Disqualifying candidates after the end of voting would have revoked the ballots of the members who voted for those candidates, which would have violated California Corrections Code 5513(d): “Unless otherwise provided in the articles [of incorporation] or bylaws, a written ballot may not be revoked.” This was similar to the violation the court reversed in the 2010 KPFA staff Delegate election. 

—-
The fact that the National Election Supervisor made the endorser of one faction her “right hand throughout the election”, and was ready to disqualify the candidates of another faction, draws her impartiality into serious question.

—-
“Is Something Rotten In The State Of Pacifica Elections?”
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/01/27/18847611.php

“How Pacifica Claimed a Dubious Victory”
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/01/14/18847345.php


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