Goldman Sachs funding causes uproar

Twelve members of the local station board have written an open letter to KPFA’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips objecting to what they say is “completely inappropriate” behavior on his part toward the station’s journalists, after news staff broke the story of a $15,000 donation from Goldman Sachs to Pacifica.

A scan of the actual checks from Goldman Sachs Gives raises more questions than it answers, showing that the funds were earmarked for a series on hydro-fracking, but leaving off important attachments and presenting conflicting information, which is being investigated. The fund was started by the firm’s partners in 2007, as part of a public relations campaign to deflect criticism over its executive bonuses and involvement in the global financial meltdown.

WBAI’s Finance Committee, which had uncovered the donation a little over a week ago, has passed a motion expressing frustration that management has not responded to its inquiries.

WBAI funds came from Goldman Sachs, says Pacifica

Three days after the story broke on April 22, Pacifica management is now saying that its New York City station, WBAI, received $10,000 from corporate finance giant Goldman Sachs (not corporate finance giant Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, as originally stated by WBAI’s general manager). The Pacifica network has a long-standing policy of not taking corporate underwriting.

The KPFA Weekend News ran a story April 24 about the funding, which included an interview with former Pacifica correspondent Larry Bensky (audio here) on the issues at stake. On April 25, Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt spoke to KPFA News (audio here), and called the money a “grant,” but said that she would not rule out underwriting in the future.

It’s still unclear what strings were attached to the gift — Pacifica managers have told various people that the gift was either unrestricted, or specifically for a series on the topic of hydro-fracking. No-strings-attached gifts are not, legally-speaking, “underwriting.” Donations to fund a particular program or series are. Engelhardt was unable to produce any documents related to the “grant.”

Pacifica manager’s anti-worker comments; AIDS denier being considered for KPFA show

Workers at some of Pacifica’s stations have been speaking out about what they say is censorship, including political journalist Bill Weinberg of New York City’s WBAI. Weinberg’s show was taken off the air by WBAI’s interim general manager Tony Bates, who has removed or marginalized dozens of other programs, including left economist Doug Henwood‘s Behind the News.

Postings by Bates on his Facebook page this week display an alarming anti-worker bias. (Bates wrote as “Tony Beezy” to KPFK staffer Zuberi Fields).

“The Pacifica network should not tolerate this sort of behavior from any manager,” said Margy Wilkinson, chair of KPFA’s local board. “Arlene Engelhardt is this guy’s boss, and she needs to take strong action immediately.”

Meanwhile, over strenuous objections from AIDS activists and physicians, Bates also replaced some of WBAI’s local programming with a show by vitamin salesman Gary Null, who denies that AIDS is caused by a virus. Null openly markets his own products on the air, including one so badly formulated that, by his own account, it nearly killed him.

Critics say such programming is downright dangerous  to the millions who live with HIV and AIDS, as well as other health conditions, and could put Pacifica in legal jeopardy. On World AIDS Day last December, bay area activists protested Null’s show outside of Pacifica’s Berkeley offices. | KPFA News report on Null protest

Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt and newly-appointed KPFA interim general manager Andrew Phillips are currently considering bringing Null’s program to KPFA.

Outraged? Let them know by writing KPFA here, or by calling Engelhardt at 510-402-9880 and Phillips at 510-848-6767 ext. 203. Or if you prefer, you can use SaveKPFA’s write Pacifica page and we’ll forward your email to boards and managers.