Berkeley-based radio station network strategizes financial solutions in threat of default

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A strategic planning working group — formed by the Pacifica Foundation Radio National Board of Directors, which oversees a network of nonprofit radio stations headquartered in Berkeley — held a planning meeting Thursday to try to keep its business alive.

At the meeting, the board’s leaders discussed the financial struggles ailing the company and potential contingency plans in case of short-term default. Jose Luis Fuentes-Roman, a member of the Pacifica National Board, or PNB, mentioned the selling of the Berkeley office — which serves as the national office — and financial swaps of broadcasting rights as possible ways to raise money in the face of mounting debt.

Fuentes-Roman recommended that Pacifica’s lawyer, John Crigler, give a talk to the PNB to educate the board about debt reorganization, especially the benefits and risks, before it carries through with any property sales or swaps.

Pacifica Network is composed of five radio stations — KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WBAI and WPFW — which are located in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston, New York and Washington D.C., respectively.

At the meeting, board members noted that every station but KPFA has been failing to meet its financial requirements, compromising the overall financial stability of the network.

“It would be a stretch to say (KPFA doesn’t) have problems,” said Brian Edwards-Tiekert, director and chair of the board’s finance committee and member of KPFA. “We just have fewer problems than other stations.”

In February, the network received a bequest that prompted questions about whether the money should be appropriated to KPFA specifically or to Pacifica Radio as a whole. The confusion arose when the bequest was sent to KPFA’s P.O. box, though the bequest was specified to go to the Pacifica Foundation.

According to Edwards-Tiekert, the endowment could have been interpreted as belonging to Pacifica’s national operation rather than KPFA. At the time, however, the management of Pacifica, including then-interim executive director Margy Wilkinson, granted the money to KPFA as it discovered the donor had regularly donated to KPFA in the past, not to Pacifica.

KPFA has since lent out more than $400,000 to assist the other stations, particularly the New York station, which owes $1 million to the Empire State Building.

According to KPFA chair Carole Travis, support from KPFA isn’t an uncommon occurrence, because KPFA has been supporting Pacifica in fundraising for the past few years.

Edwards-Tiekert said the question now is if KPFA will get paid back for its prior support of other stations via the $400,000 or if that money will get funneled to the national office.

According to Wilkinson, who is a member of both the KPFA Local Station Board and the PNB, the financial decline that Pacifica is experiencing is due to a decline in radio listeners who support the stations and to a systematic reduction in donations to nonprofits.

Wilkinson said she believes that the problems facing Pacifica are exacerbated by the fact that the PNB is not functional and is drenched with too much bureaucracy because of its size.

“The boards are too large,” Wilkinson said. “One of the things we’ve learned over the years is that smaller boards work better. There are less opportunities for factionalism and internal dispute.”

The California attorney general is auditing Pacifica, with results expected to come out in 2016.

Contact Alok Narahari at [email protected].

A previous version of this article may have implied that the $400,000 bequest was ambiguously directed and could have been meant for KPFA. In fact, the bequest was specified to go to the Pacifica Foundation, but was sent to the KPFA’s P.O. box, which was the source of the original uncertainty.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Pacifica Foundation Radio National Board of Directors held the strategic planning meeting. In fact, the meeting was held by a strategic planning working group, formed by the board in July.

A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that Brian Edwards-Tiekert is the chair of the Pacifica National Board. In fact, Edwards-Tiekert is a director and chair of the board’s finance committee.

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  • Mark Talmont

    As readers can discern from the posters below, this is quite a tangled web. It would be really interesting to get a look at Pacifica’s books, if there are any reliable books to look at.

    What I find perplexing is how uber-rich leftists fail to recognize the value of KPFA and its associates to their schemes. Tom Steyer or George Soros could write a check and make this all go away, yet instead they hurt piles of cash into voids of insipidity and self-contradiction (the same people who were hysterical about the “population bomb” and saving the environment are just as fanatical for uncontrolled immigration); I guess you can get away with this if you are billionaires and after all have the corporate media so far up your pants they could tell what you ate for lunch. But I guess I just have a problem believing people who preach the gospel about the “existential crisis” of climate change while flying around in private jets (left unregulated by the EPA’s latest regime to tax you extra for squeezing into a seat on Sardine Can Air).

    I must confess I would actually miss KPFA if they bit the dust, just for the music they have on the weekends. Even some of their ideological programming has at times been a useful contribution, as when Amy Goodman provided a forum for the NIH researcher who dared to question the party line/”case closed” FBI version of the anthrax attacks after 9/11. Democracy Now has also highlighted the Obama administration’s ferocious attacks on whistleblowers who have exposed some of the worst abuses of power since the Cold War era. (And the “Guns and Butter” program by Bonnie Faulkner remains one of the few true independent voices in what’s left of investigative research). But alas, Goodman and her Marxist minions can always be relied upon to veer to the extreme left wing of political correctness, as when she never misses the opportunity to wave the bloody shirt of the OKC bombing and the wholesale smear of the “extreme right/militias”; when the fact remains that ABC news had video of the ATF looking for the bomb on the morning of the attack (shown once and never again) and our sterling FBI effected a full-scale suppression of all evidence relating to McVeigh’s accomplice “John Doe #2–you can witness the remnants of the still-extant evidence regarding these matters in the video “A Noble Lie”.)

    As others note below, KPFA and their associated stations permit statements far more extreme and hateful than anything emanating from the hosts on conservative talk radio that the left likes to characterize as “hate speech”. They provide a forum for people who just can’t resist venturing into overt race nationalism (mixed with being really sloppy about facts and documentation) that would almost certainly get a station’s license pulled if any white conservatives did the same thing. For this reason I could never support them. Clean up your act folks, kick off the haters and liars and I’ll write you a check.

  • Greta

    There have been lots of myths about a KPFA bequest circulating. This puts them to rest:

  • everybody knows

    Didn’t I hear Leonard Peltier talking on KPFA last night SUPPORTING the Paris attacks because the Muslims were the indigenous people of Syria?

    Yes, I did! Have a listen here: kpfa-dot-org/archives/2015/11/16/

    Whoever offers a platform for that kind of historical revisionist, ultra right-wing collectivist hate speech should be defunded.

    • Dan Spitzer

      Insurance companies and traffic authorities should ban listening to KPFA when driving, as your left knee may keep twitching to such an extreme as making you rather vulnerable to getting in an accident…

  • Kim_Kaufman

    Here’s another point of view: KPFK and Pacifica: A Quiet Coup

  • Dan Spitzer

    It will indeed be a very good day when Pacifica closes its doors everywhere. As a generator of ideologically-bound falsehoods, Pacifica makes even Fox appear benign.

    Long, long ago, KPFA provided balanced perspectives one could find nowhere else. But the most venerable contingent of the station, former or even after the “Party was over” old lefty members of the Communist Party’s USA minion, kept a strait-jacket upon the station with propaganda being its first over of call. And its news programs became a very bad joke.

    Correspondingly, with the travesty of Vietnam receding, listeners started bailing on the station. During the administration of George W. Bush, when one would have thought the station to be in a great position to add new listeners, its audience level plummeted by a full third. And now only the dregs, and the idioit-logical consumers of the excreta, are left.

    Hopefully, our airwaves will soon be free of the toxins KPFA spews into the air to poison the minds of naive, albeit often idealistic young fools. And what a fresh air, pun intended, there will be to no longer have to even scroll past the rot promulgated by KPFA over our public airwaves…

  • ShadrachSmith

    Pacifica Foundation Radio us unadulterated Marxist/Leftist poo.

    Why would anybody give them money?

    • Dan Spitzer

      Rich lefty arsewipes give them money because in many cases, they were Red Diaper Babies and nobody has given them a cleaning since they were (or still need to be) toilet trained.

      But I must confess I have learned something when inadvertently turning my dial to far and getting KPFA. On one womyn’s program, I learned that teenage girls should from known as “Pre-Womyn.” Indeed, I now know that you cannot have seminars for “womyn” because seminar has the word “semin” in it. Instead, colloquium for womyn should be termed “ovulars!”

      I could keep going with this and reportage of the latest “microaggressions,” but I’m certain you and I have better things to do…

      • everybody knows

        In some cases they are not lefties anymore. When they switch to forms of collectivism that employ ethnic identities as a boundaries for the political units, they move themselves into the realm of RIGHT wing collectivism… nationalistic/ethnocentric/religious socialism of the sort talked about by oppressed Germans during Napoleon’s occupation.

        This is a point that few people are making these days, but it is the truth.

        • Dan Spitzer

          In truth, contingent upon the situation, they swing both ways. Conn Hallinan, Angela Davis, Dennis Bernstein and Barbara Lubin are unreconstructed old Stalinists. On the other hand, the continued deification of Palestinian Islamofascists regularly fouling the KPFA airwaves certainly underscores that these old lefties can ride the anti-Semitic prejudicial pole as far to the right as one can go…

          • everybody knows

            Vive le Enlightenment, Vive le France

            With you all the way, brethren

  • Tracy Rosenberg

    This story neglects to mention that the Pacifica Foundation Board of Directors already reviewed the facts

    surrounding the $400,000 bequest and determined that there was nothing ambiguous about it and the donation to the national profit was misreported as a restricted donation to just the Berkeley station when it was not. The reporter does a disservice to the reader by mostly just interviewing Margy Wilkinson and Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who were implicated in the misdirection of the funds and are re-arguing what already been determined in your newspaper. Here is some supplemental information: (Go to the link for access to the original documents)

    The documentation regarding the bequest directed to Pacifica Foundation Radio that was incorrectly reported as a restricted donation for the exclusive use of KPFA-Radio, has finally been made available.
    The national board of directors voted the bequest had been made to the Pacifica Foundation and then to distribute the document package to the network’s five local station boards.

    The first document is the donor’s signed and notarized 2nd amendment to their will stating the bequest to Pacifica Foundation Radio. It reads as follows:

    item iv: 4 shares to Pacifica Foundation Radio of Berkeley, California, a charitable organization. If Pacifica
    Foundation Radio fails for any reason to take this gift, or if on the date of my death it is not an organization described in Internal Revenue Code 2055(a), this gift shall lapse.

    The second document is a copy of the check and deposit slip.

    The cashier’s check is payable to Pacifica Foundation Radio. On the deposit slip, the name of the beneficiary is changed to “Pacifica Foundation Radio DBA as KPFA” to enable deposit into KPFA’s Mechanics Bank account.

    The third document is KPFA general manager Quincy McCoy signing the estate document. McCoy signs as a fiduciary agent for Pacifica Foundation Radio instead of Pacifica‘s chief financial officer who is the fiduciary for Pacifica Foundation Radio per the organization’s bylaws. “The Chief Financial Officer shall cause to be deposited all moneys and other valuables in the name and to the credit of the Foundation with
    such depositaries as may be designated by the Board”.

    The fourth document is the donor’s giving history.

    The records in the Memsys database indicate small annual gifts never exceeding about $300 annually to the local station’s fund drives.

    In an email also dated March 4, 2015, Pacifica’s then-CFO Salvador states that he has “concerns”, namely that “this is a substantial amount and paperwork was submitted on behalf of Pacifica Foundation without consulting the national office or at the very least advising us at the national office that this was forthcoming. We only learned about this from our recent conversation with X. They were probably wondering why Pacifica officers and top-level management were not aware of this substantial amount”. …
    There may be questions brought up that we at the national office must be prepared to address. Transparency has been the outcry and the demand of the PNB and other Pacifica supporters”

    On Thursday, Dan Siegel’s former employee of 12 years national board member Jose Luis Fuentes, attempted to push the Pacifica Foundation into filing for voluntary bankruptcy and begin selling off buildings and selling or swapping broadcast licenses.

    Margy Wilkinson and Dan Siegel secretly established a new nonprofit foundation with Pacifica Radio’s mission statement to house KPFA’s broadcasting license under their sole control should the Pacifica Foundation get shut down by the government or become insolvent after their 2014 coup.