Following revelations that Pacifica has received a large donation from investment firm Goldman Sachs, KPFA interim general manager Andrew Phillips issued a public attack on the KPFA News, which broke the story. Twelve members of KPFA’s local station board have responded, calling Phillips’ letter “completely inappropriate,” and saying its contents reminded them of “the worst of corporate America.”
KPFA’s Sunday (4/24) anchor Glenn Reeder aired an interview with a board member of Pacifica station WBAI, who said the station’s general manager had reported a $10,000 from corporate banking firm Merrill Lynch several days earlier. Calls for comment from the KPFA News to Phillips and to Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt were not returned. Phillips had publicly told KPFA’s board that he was “not against” corporate sponsorship for the station, a statement which was included in the report that aired. Larry Bensky, former Pacifica correspondent, was also interviewed in the piece (AUDIO HERE).
On Monday (4/25), KPFA News reporter Cameron Jones tracked down Engelhardt, who said that the money came from Goldman Sachs, not Merrill Lynch. She would not rule out corporate underwriting (AUDIO HERE.) On Tuesday (4/26), Engelhardt’s interview was run for a second time on the AM newscast, followed by audio from Phillips, in which he again said KPFA should explore “corporate underwriting” by businesses (AUDIO HERE.)
Nonetheless, late on Tuesday, Phillips sent out a public letter attacking KPFA’s journalists and accusing them of “smearing” him. He sent the letter to all KPFA staff, the Pacifica National Board, KPFA’s Local Station Board, the Pacifica National Finance Committee, and the managers of Pacifica — all told, hundreds of people — and it soon appeared across the internet, including on WBAI’s own home page. He appended a letter from Pacifica’s board treasurer Tracy Rosenberg about the funding, which contained several omissions and inaccuracies. Later, Rosenberg released a scan of the actual Goldman Sachs checks, which showed Pacifica received $15,000 in two checks from Goldman Sacks Gives, a fund set up by the firm’s partners in 2007. The donations were intended for a “special series” of WBAI news reports on the topic of hydrofracking, an environmentally-destructive form of natural gas extraction. The scan refers to “Grant Terms and Conditions attached hereto,” but those are not attached.
Phillips’ letter confirmed that Sunday’s news story had quoted him accurately, adding: “I was pointing out that, given Pacifica’s depleted finances, corporate underwriting should be one of the considerations. In my opinion, it would be irresponsible not to consider it.”
After reading Phillips’ letter, Daniel Goodwin was one of several listeners who wrote to KPFA’s board, saying the Sunday news story contained “a direct, unexpurgated transcript of his own words. Phillips’ hypocrisy is manifest both in his disrespect for the founding principles of the Pacifica network, and in his weaselly non-denial denial of his own words.”
Phillips also used his letter to lambast KPFA’s union, CWA, as well as this website, KPFAworker.org, writing that “if KPFA is to suffer more cutbacks, some of the blame for that will lay at [its] feet.”
Twelve members KPFA’s board have taken Phillips to task for his mean-spirited attempt to intimidate journalists. “It is completely inappropriate for you to confuse your role as a boss with that of an interviewee on a news story,” they wrote. “We are also disturbed at your attack on paid staff’s union representative, CWA, as well as the website kpfaworker.org, which whatever you think of it, has the involvement of unpaid and paid workers at the station who have the right to organize as they see fit. The kinds of comments you made remind us of the worst of corporate America.” (Here’s the entire open letter from the KPFA board majority.)