by Paul DeRienzo
According to former PNB member Ken Ford the Pacifica crisis was precipitated in February 1999 when the PNB, then chaired by US Civil Rights Commission head Mary Francis Berry, voted unanimously to make changes in the governing structure of the Foundation. PNB members said they were being forced to comply with rules of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB had told Pacifica that the PNB had to sever ties with the Local Advisory Boards of the five Pacifica stations (KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WBAI, WPFW) to stay eligible for CPB funding. Although largely supported by listener subscribers a significant portion of Pacificas funding is provided through the CPB. According to Ford their was a "huge uproar" that the PNB had become "self appointing" and had taken control from the LABs. However, Ford states, as do many other former PNB members that the LABs never had management control over Pacifica or its stations.
Ford adds that the first person to raise the LAB issue was KPFA programmer Larry Bensky. Bensky discussed the issue on his show "Living Room" and was suspended for violating what Ford call the "non-disclosure" rule. Ford contends that although Bensky and another KPFA programmer, Dennis Bernstein, "hated each other" they came together against a "common enemy, the Pacifica Foundation." According to Ford Bernstein "used Bensky."
Speaking on the WBAI program Letem Talk on April 16, 1999 Larry Bensky stated that he believes that the crisis at KPFA began when former Pacifica National Director Lynn Chadwick refused to renew KPFA General Manager Nicole Sawayas contract. Bensky says Chadwick forced KPFA to play a statement on the air Chadwick claimed was intended "to clear the air." Bensky asserts that "she made statements about me in that three-minute harangue which she ordered broadcast several times on KPFA." Bensky says when it came time to do his program, which was then broadcast nationally, he played the Chadwick tape and then discussed internal station business on the air in violation of the Pacificas "dirty laundry" policy. Bensky says his on-air statement was "about how concerned I was as a person who's been with the organization longer than just about anyone, about what I saw as more top down authoritarian behavior and wasteful, self-perpetuating bureaucracy." A few days later Bensky was fired.
Ken Ford has a different take on what prompted Bensky to go the airwaves. Ford maintains that Bensky wanted to be "put off the air." When Chadwick became national director of Pacifica, she refused to renew Sawayas contract because as Ford asserts Sawaya "wasnt what we wanted." Ford adds that Bensky and Bernstein wanted Sawaya as GM since "they could control her."
Meanwhile Ford adamantly contends that Democracy Now host Amy Goodman was "stealing money, as were people at KPFA." Ford says Goodman had "check writing power," and that the PNB "had copies of them" and was investigating. Ford states that the PNB had copies of the checks and alleges that WBAI GM Valerie Van Isler was directed to sign checks and make expenditures by Goodman. Former Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash backs up these charges against Goodman saying that Goodman "was not supposed to be a manager She was not to have check writing power." Wash adds that Goodmans actions "put licenses at risk" and caused "exposure to the Foundation." Wash says that an accounting company had to be hired "to make us straight with the IRS due to things done by Amy."
Ford also blames Dennis Bernstein as the catalyst for the conflict. Referring to an incident on July 13, 1999 when Dennis Bernstein was removed in handcuffs from KPFA studios after an alleged altercation with a Pacifica manager. He says Pacificas Garland Gantner was assigned to running KPFA after Sawaya was removed and had asked Bernstein to come to his office for a meeting. Ford says Bernstein claimed Gantner "tried to beat him up." But Ford claims that it was the other way around, Bernstein, who he says was belligerent and "knocked over stuff," falsely claiming he was being assaulted. Ford says that Bernsteins supporters had already gathered outside the KPFA studios in Berkeley and that the whole incident was "staged."
An even more disturbing incident occurred just hours after Sawaya's dismissal, an unidentified person fired several shots at KPFA. According to news reports someone "broke windows" at KPFA and "shot through a wall," no one was injured. Berkeley police Capt. Bobby Miller said at the time that there no suspects and no one had been arrested or charged in the shooting. Miller added, that he was aware that the shooting might be related to the internal labor conflict at KPFA and, in particular, may be related to Sawaya's termination. "Reportedly, someone was laid off recently," he said. "We are aware of some concerns about labor issues."
Ford says that soon after Mary Francis Berry who was Pacifica national director at the time began to face "harassment" at her speaking engagements as part of what Ford maintains was a "smear campaign." Other Pacifica staffers were harassed as well. Executive Assistant Vanessa Ransom was "eventually hospitalized with a nervous breakdown." Ford adds that Ransom was "under medication because of what these people did to her."
Ford maintains that Amy Goodman and WBAI producer Robert Knight were "double dipping." Goodman currently has two complaints about Pacifica before the National Labor Relations Board. One of those complaints really piqued Ford, because Goodman claims that Pacifica hadnt paid her for work shed done. Ford says its because Goodman was getting paid for the same work from other sources. Ford also charges that Knight was selling stories hed done for Pacifica "verbatim" to other news agencies.
Ford also hits New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez for his role in heading up the Pacifica Campaign; an organization dedicated to forcing the resignation of the PNB. Gonzalez is also co-host with Goodman of Democracy Now. According to Ford it was primarily Gonzalez associate Denis Moynihan who carried out the harassment of the PNB members. Moynihan was a member of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee and currently the head of the Pacifica Campaign. Ford claims the Pacifica Campaign targeted PNB chair David Acosta. He says the Campaign sent letters to a licensing board in Houston accusing Acosta and another PNB member, Valerie Chambers of "fraudulent activities." Ford says that Acostas Social Security number and credit report were distributed in a packet of information from the Pacifica Campaign. He says that Denis Moynihan would call Acostas home and harass his children asking "why there father was denying people free speech."
Valerie Chambers, another PNB member from Houston was subjected to harassment from Moynihan as well according to Ford. He says Moynihan was responsible for a full-page ad against Chambers in a student newspaper. Moynihan also carried out "vigils at her home and harassed her children." Ford says that Moynihan was "going after the powerless and weaker."
The Pacifica Campaign used the Internet to target Ford personally. Ford says 800,000 emails were sent to him and all his work associates from email addresses listed on the web site of his employer the National Association of Home Builders or NAHB.** Ford blames Steve Freedkin the portal master who facilitated the email campaign. He accuses Freedkin of bombarding web sites and hacking into them to get email address lists. Ford adds that the emails contained "all lies" demanding the NAHB fire him. This says Ford despite the fact that there is no connection between NAHB and Pacifica.
Freedkins web site is continued its activity by targeting members of the iPNB who were not aligned with the his faction. The web page states that more than 23,000 emails have been sent to members of the iPNB includes five people appointed by the "clique of Washington corporate raiders who hijacked the organization and nearly destroyed it. They are Marion Barry (Washington, DC), James Ferguson (Washington, DC), Dick Gregory (Los Angeles), and Bertram Lee (Washington, DC)."
Ford charges supporters of the Pacifica Campaign with breaking into NAHB office buildings, disrupting NAHB seminars around the country and accusing the NAHB of participating in corporate raids. Juan Gonzalez also wrote instructions for letters to the editor of 54 major newspapers claiming NAHB was a corporate raider of Pacifica.
Some of the most aggressive attacks aimed at PNB members targeted Board member and former WBAI LAB member Andrea Cisco who claims she had to resign from the PNB to protect her job as a diversity consultant for private companies. Cisco makes her most devastating charges of harassment against Amy Goodman. Cisco blames Goodman for forcing her off the PNB by protesting and harassing her clients, including a demonstration at MBNA bank that was staged after a Goodman speech in Belfast, Maine. According to Cisco after the Goodman protest, her employer, a small firm promoting diversity training for companies and institutions, received calls from MBNA about Cisco asking, "who is this person." Cisco charges that Goodman "may have mentioned my name" during the protest prompting MBNAs call.
The Pacifica Campaign was obviously stung by Ciscos allegations. In a posting dated July 17th on their web site the campaign states that Amy Goodman is being "falsely accused of leading a protest in Maine when she was actually in NYC." However, an article published a week earlier in the Bangor Daily News reports that Goodman was present in Maine for the protest and that she played a leading role. The July 9th report states that "After Goodman spoke, an announcement was made about a protest planned for noon today at Renys Plaza in Belfast. Participants will gather to demonstrate against credit card lender MBNA, which has offices across the road from the shopping center."
Cisco says that threats to picket her employer, a small consulting group, and threats of an "investigation into ties to Mary Francis Berry," forced her to write a letter promising to "not represent them or work as a consultant with them," while the Pacifica controversy remained unsettled. Cisco had to reluctantly resign her position on the PNB. Shortly afterwards Robert Knight spent time on his regular WBAI program further vilifying Cisco and prompting her to call in. During a tense exchange Cisco challenged Knights assertion that her resignation had come voluntarily and without duress.
Legend of Amy Goodman
A letter to Juan Gonzalez from former Pacifica Network News chief Patricia Guadalupe.
tomasina jefferson hi there
Tue Feb 19 16:42:14 2002 188.8.131.52
Dear List Members:
A recent email by Juan Gonzalez making the rounds contains more baloney than a school cafeteria sandwich. You know, Juan, I am so glad you are so “concerned” about the finances of an organization you barely knew about, even when you were there. But I have some questions: How come you weren’t concerned that members of your group called up people in the midle of the night to harass them, called legitimate union members “scabs,” and deigned it okay to approach the children and parents of employees all in the name of an illegitimate campaign to get people on your side by using tactics that even pro wrestlers don’t use? How come you never mention that the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union bowed out of your Los Angeles presentation because they saw it for what it was: not a forum on the media, but a slamfest against unionized employees of a public radio network who happened not to agreed with you and that the NAHJ didn’t know this when they first signed on? And did you mention that the ailing mother of another one of the panelists was called in the middle of the night to try to get her daughter to change her mind after cancelling out? Did you mention that the reporters who chose not to participate in your campaign were bombarded by emails and phone calls that insulted their names and reputations? How come you don’t mention that the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is pissed off at you* for misrepresenting the presence of one of their people at one of your fundraisers? How come you are not concerned that the current executive director (now former E.D. Dan Coughlin) has had the ONLY union grievance filed against a member of management at the network, and that his record with women employees of color is less than stellar? ...
Maybe you’ll see how much you got hoodwinked when
the union finally files a RICO charge against your buddies. In the meantime,
go ahead and continue spreading your baloney. Because of course
it’s not about ensuring a diverse workforce, diverse news stories
and a diversity of OPINION. It’s about winning no matter the cost,
right, Juan? Oh, and by the way, I seem to remember that you
yourself said (at the Los Angeles “forum”) that you would
take care of all employees affected by any layoffs your campaign engendered.
Okay, we’re waiting… patricia guadalupe
* see: AFTRA UNION LETTER
TO BOARD CHAIR LESLIE CAGAN
Campaign National Day of Action Against Ken Ford and others
CURRENTS report on Moyhnihan's anti-Ford nautical hijinks.Aug. 20, 2001
On Saturday November 17, 2001, 1 was accosted by Denis Moynihan
at the Pacifica National Board meeting ibeing held outside of DC. Moynihan
is the head of the Pacifica Campaign (he replaced Gonzales) and is a close
associate of Amy Goodman’s. I was in the lobby of the hotel walking
from the bathroom back to the meeting room and Moynihan came up behind
me. I turned around to see who was following me, and Moynihan was inches
away from me. He said, "AFTRA will sell you out." Standing nearby
was Garland Gantner, who at the time was station manager at KPFT in Houston,
TX I believe he overheard this because our eyes met afterwards. I asked
Moynihan, "isn't AFTRA Amy’s union.?" Moynihan just looked
shocked and didn’t reply; he then walked away and I continued into
On December 11, 2001, AFTRA counsel Richard Larkin wrote
to Pacifica Counsel Larry Drapkin requesting bargaining and requesting
unpaid back money and insurance coverage due to bargaining unit members
under the collective-bargaining agreement (with UE).