NES Response to Fair Elections Complaint Filed 6-30-2019 KPFT

Proposed NES Responses to Fair Campaign Complaints

Complaint #1 – Filed June 30, 2019

Complainant: Robert Gartner

The complainant filed two complaints on the same form.

The first complaint was regarding a signature gathering event at KPFT that was organized by “Bill Crosier with the help of Larry Winters” (per the complainant). Complainant states that “neither Crosier nor Winters is the station’s LES and therefore they have no business “intruding into the business of elections”. Complainant does not identify which of the 7 fair campaign rules they believe was violated.

Discussion: The relevant fair campaign rule is #5 which states:

Any listeners may organize community meetings to bring together listeners and prospective candidates for the purpose of learning about prospective candidates and collecting petition signatures.  Any such events may be announced on-air provided they have been approved by the Election Supervisor, are open to all nominated candidates, are open to any listener, are in a handicap-accessible location, do not endorse any candidates, raise money for any candidates, or promote events to raise money for any candidates.

The complainant does not provide any evidence that the event was not open to all candidates and listeners (pending complaint 2 which is discussed below), that its purpose was other than collecting petition signatures, that it was not in a handicap-accessible location, that it endorsed any candidates, that it raised money for any candidates or that it promoted an event to raise money for any candidates. Since the event was not recorded or video-taped, we cannot say with 100% assurance that is the case, but since the complainant did not attend the event and no other complaints about the event have been received, the burden of proof for such a charge lies with the complainant and no evidence has been provided. This prong of the complaint is found to be without merit. Any listener may organize such an event and it is not a fair campaign violation to do so and does not constitute “intruding into the business of elections”.

RULING: Complaint is found to be without merit.

The second complaint by Mr. Gartner is that because Mr. Gartner has been banned from KPFT’s physical premises for six months that the holding of a signature petition gathering event on those premises constituted discrimination against him because “provisions were not made for Gartner’s access”. Gartner also complains of KPFT GM Don Freeman who he says has “sabotaged Gartner’s ability to communicate with him, any staff, or any of the KPFT Board”.

Discussion: It is true that a signature gathering event held on the station’s premises would prevent the attendance of individuals who have been banned from the station’s premises. The event was held prior to the publication of the candidate’s names on July 9 (the event date is June 22). Therefore it does not seem possible that the event organizers could have factually known who all the candidates were going to be, apart from anecdotal conversations. Any signature gathering event held prior to the close of the candidate nomination period and before the official candidate list was published on necessarily could only rely on potential candidates known to the organizers and an “on-air open call” as was done. The fact of Mr. Gartner’s banning is not per se an election matter. Mr. Gartner was not banned from the station due to election-related activities and so we cannot and will not comment on the fairness or lack thereof of such a ban. But we do not see any action that could have been taken by Mr. Crosier or Mr. Winters as individuals that consist of “provisions” that they could have taken to ensure Mr. Gartner’s access to a facility whose management authority has banned access to.. The sole action available to them was to hold their event elsewhere, and the onus on them to do so prior to the close of the candidate nomination period and the list of candidates being published does not exist. The Fair Campaign rule says the event must be open to all, and the event organizers did not cause, nor do they have the power as individuals to overturn, a standing ban on facilities access. With regard to Mr. Freeman, whether or not the facilities access ban he put into place against Mr. Gartner meets with Pacifica policies or not is a matter between him and his supervisor and is not within the jurisdiction of the national election supervisor. As Mr. Gartner correctly states, a facilities access ban does not prevent a listener from running for a seat on the local board, and Pacifica has precedent to this effect and thus his candidacy was approved by election staff. (More discussion on this later).

RULING: The complaint is found to be without merit. Mr. Crosier and Mr. Winters were under no obligation to make provisions for the complainants access to the station. The National Election Supervisor lacks jurisdiction to rule on a standing facilities access ban implemented by KPFT’s general manager.