A lawsuit demanding over $800,000 in “damages” from four KPFA listeners who tried to raise money for KPFA has been dropped, with its initiator agreeing to pay all costs for SaveKPFA‘s legal defense team.
The SLAPP suit had been filed against the Morning Show 4 — elected KPFA board members Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, Mal Burnstein and Conn Hallinan — who led a 2011 SaveKPFA campaign that collected over $60,000 in pledges to restore the KPFA Morning Show, after Pacifica claimed it had cancelled the show for financial reasons.
Hundreds of listeners made financial pledges in that campaign, but Pacifica refused to accept them. Shortly thereafter, KPFA partisan Daniel Borgstrom and his lawyer, former LSB rep Richard Phelps, slapped the four SaveKPFA board members with a lawsuit demanding $800,000 in “damages” for the fundraising activity, which they claimed was “disloyal” to Pacifica.
While Pacifica formally took no position on the suit, national board members such as treasurer Tracy Rosenberg had been publicly proclaiming the existence of the lawsuit as a “win” for her side. In January 2013, she and her allies on the PNB even passed an Orwellian anti-dissent “loyalty” measure targeting the SaveKPFA‘s activists, threatening to boot them from the board should Borgstrom win his lawsuit. Outraged listeners and staff wrote to the PNB when the measure was introduced earlier this year (a sampling of the letters is here.)
Thanks for your support, and congratulations to everyone who has worked to support KPFA through these difficult times! Please renew that support by making your pledge to KPFA during this week’s fund drive.
After we alerted SaveKPFA supporters to this, hundreds wrote, calling the measure what it is: a political witchhunt.
“I’m stunned that a measure about ‘loyalty’ should even be considered by a Pacifica board,” wrote listener Alan Snitow. “Please stop this measure and repudiate its intent. The loyalty measure is the kind of pseudo-leftwing idea that merges Stalinism and McCarthyism.”
“How can you dare to try to turn Pacifica into a grotesque caricature of the reactionary tendencies KPFA was founded to oppose?” wrote listener Stephanie Reader. “This Orwellian ‘loyalty measure’ is yet more appalling evidence of how far over to the dark side some on the Pacifica board have drifted in their determination to run it without input from those who do the work, and those who pay the bills.”
The Pacifica’s board referred the matter to legal counsel for an opinion. That opinion has not been made public, but the “loyalty” proposal has reappeared on the agenda on the next Pacifica National Board phone meeting this Thursday, January 10, starting at 5:30 PM Pacific time. Anyone may listen to the live web-broadcast of the meeting at this link or this link.
“This is about KPFA’s foundational principles of free speech and political dissent,” noted Local Station Board vice chair Sasha Futran. “If a measure like this actually ends up being adopted, Pacifica’s founder Lew Hill would not even recognize the radio network he created,” she said.
Although Pacifica’s Bylaws require the incumbent national board be replaced by newly-elected members this month, the incumbent boardmembers have unilaterally extended their own terms by delaying the first meeting of the incoming PNB until February. They may be hoping that buys them time to do more damage: the anti-dissent resolution appears at the top of a 10-page agenda stacked with items that promise to eviscerate local control at Pacifica’s stations and place massive bureaucratic constraints on the work of the network’s rank-and-file staff.
Before votes in KPFA’s local board election are even counted, Tracy Rosenberg and her allies at the national level continue to do damage to Pacifica’s structure and mission. Earlier this week, the Pacifica National Board, which is dominated by Rosenberg and her allies, passed a measure that prohibits those who dissent from Rosenberg’s agenda from serving on local or national boards.
“The resolution banning those deemed ‘disloyal’ which was presented to the board by Tracy is pure McCarthy era,” noted Sasha Futran, KPFA’s former Local Station Board vice chair. “The appeal process is a sham, as any appeals would go to the very people who took after them for political reasons in the first place. This is the kind of divisiveness that is tearing Pacifica apart. Tracy has a big hand, perhaps the biggest, in that process,” added Futran, who was a member of Rosenberg’s slate at one time, before leaving it to join SaveKPFA.
The measure is aimed squarely at 4 SaveKPFA members — Margy Wilkinson, Dan Siegel, Mal Burnstein and Conn Hallinan — for their role in collecting over $60,000 in pledges to restore the KPFA Morning Show and rehire its laid off co-hosts back in 2010-2011. They raised only pledges of support, not actual money. Nevertheless, the “Morning Show 4” were slapped with a lawsuit by Rosenberg allies Richard Phelps and Daniel Borgstrom, who allege such fundraising activity was “disloyal” to Pacifica. Phelps and Borgstrom are demanding these four listeners pay Pacifica “damages” of $800,000.
The proposal from Pacifica’s governance committee would ban anyone whose actions have been declared by a court of law to be breaches of “loyalty,” “fiduciary duty,” or “duty of care” from holding any office in Pacifica. Rosenberg has been publicly predicting victory in the Morning Show 4 case, and it’s transparent her intent is to get rid of her political opponents.
“Do you have any conscience?” wrote one KFPA listener to Rosenberg recently when the lawsuit came up for public discussion recently. “You’re supporting a horrendous attack on 4 KPFA listeners who were simply trying, like generations before them, to support KPFA in a time of crisis.”
Rosenberg’s allies have been issuing gag rules against KPFA’s unpaid and paid staff; now they are going after listeners too. “Banning people, gag rules, anti-union law firms eating up the station’s cash — where have we heard this before?” asked KPFA listener Alison Davis. “In 1999, the last time the network was taken over.”
ACTION ALERT: IT’S TIME TO SPEAK UP! Please take a minute to send an email to Pacifica’s board members demanding they rescind this “loyalty” measure immediately. CLICK HERE to send a sample email (or write your own):“Branding dedicated KPFA members as ‘disloyal’ because they asked for pledges of support for KPFA programming is truly appalling. For the 10 PNB members who opposed this measure: thank you for upholding the spirit of Pacifica. For those who voted for it: I demand that you rescind this McCarthyite loyalty measure immediately and stop trying to punish dedicated members simply because you disagree with them.”
This is about KPFA’s foundational principles of free speech and political dissent. “If a measure like this actually ends up being adopted, Pacifica’s founder Lew Hill would not even recognize the radio network he created,” added Futran.
KPFA’s Tracy Rosenberg promoted and voted for the “disloyalty” measure, which was written by WBAI delegates Kathy Davis and Alex Steinberg and KPFT delegate Bill Crosier.