Right Wing Hijacks Radio: GOP Wins!

Think radio doesn't matter?  Think again!

Compare these maps representing numbers and sizes of  "Conservative"
"Right Wing" radio stations and "Liberal" radio stations across the USA:


Then look at a map of the 2010 Midterm Election Results:

About 50 million Americans listen to Right Wing Talk Radio.

Now here's the SCARY part:
Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have far more reach on Radio than Fox News.
You won't believe it until you
See These Charts!  

Radio is still the country's number one source of news and information,
but fewer than 10% of the country is able to hear any progressive talk radio.
Those who do tend to vote for more Democrats than those who do not.

How did this happen?
See the story from Broadcast Blues:

Hey, Talkers, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Fairness Doctrine?

Originally published December 14, 2008 in the Sacramento Bee

     What scares Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and now George Will even more than a Democratic-run government?    The prospect of restoring fairness to the public airwaves.
  
     They have good reason to be afraid.

     It's been well documented that 90 percent of radio talkers are conservative, and 22 percent of Americans cite talk radio as their primary source of news. What's less known is that for more than two years, right-wing hosts have been lambasting the Fairness Doctrine on thousands of radio stations nationwide, convincing unwitting listeners that fairness is unfair, and that localism in broadcasting is bad for communities.

     Pre-Ronald Reagan, that FCC rule said broadcasters had to provide a reasonable opportunity for contrasting viewpoints on issues of public importance. Reagan's Federal Communications Commission threw out the Fairness Doctrine, paving the way for conservatives and Republicans to dominate political speech.   No question it's made an impact on elections: In 1994, when Republicans took the House of Representatives for the first time in 50 years, they made Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of Congress.

     Only 10 percent of radio talkers are liberal, and most liberal shows can only be found on small stations.  But independent research reveals that areas of the country that are exposed to progressive talk radio are now starting to vote blue.  "Air America Radio" and the "Ed Schultz Show" have been on the air for four years and are gradually increasing their number of stations.  Is it a coincidence that states which now hear a liberal viewpoint – states like Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Florida and Virginia – all went for Obama?  Or that the surprise swing states of North Dakota, Montana and even Arizona now hear liberal talk?

Citizens United - a Media Reform Issue

December 4, 2010

Because of the widely unpopular Citizens United decision by the Roberts' Supreme Court, which held that corporate funding of campaign ads cannot be limited under the First Amendment, this 2010 midterm election cycle is seeing five times more outside spending than occurred in the last midterm.  As noted in Bill Mann's Huffington Post piece, the real beneficiaries of all that spending are broadcasters  (broadcasters who have a legal obligation to serve the public interest.)

"The people who are making most -- over 90%, by most estimates -- of the money from all the obnoxious and ubiquitous ads this fall have names unfamiliar to most people: Belo, Young Broadcasting, Cox, Fisher Broadcasting, Media General. And big names, of course, like ABC, Tribune, Gannett, NBC Universal."

But there are a lot of other names which are unfamiliar to most people, names like "American Crossroads." "America's Families First Action Fund."  "American Action Network." "Commonsense Ten." (These, according to the Washington Post, are among the biggest special interest group midterm spenders.)

That leads me to question the value of the current idea in Washington that by merely "disclosing" who is funding campaign ads, voters will somehow be able to separate fact from fiction.  As Meredith McGeeHee notes on the Campaign Legal Center blog,
"Congress should take heed of the Supreme Court’s 8-to-1 ruling in Citizens United in favor of disclosure, stating that such disclosure is not only constitutional, but is the expected and indeed necessary counter-balance to the new corporate right to expend unlimited funds in US elections.

"Justice Kennedy’s 8-1 majority Opinion stated on this point: 'The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.

"This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.'”
The problem is that outside the Beltway, a majority of people who are watching local TV news peppered with campaign ads don’t even know who George Soros is.  Lindsay Lohan, yes, Dick Armey? Doubtful.  Really, just disclosing who paid for ads is no match for the magic of Madison Avenue Mad Men. 

Hard Stats on Talk Radio

 November 24, 2010

What would happen if one political party could control the message sent to 50 million Americans?  Answer:  We'd get more election results like the one we just had.

See the stats here:     Prepare to be frightened.
"Talk Radio Listeners Liberal v Conservative"

Mobilizing for Real Media Reform!

 November 23, 2010
     There's been a shift in energy since the election, can you feel it?  It's like a big bright light bulb turned on and folks are, maybe for the first time, clearly seeing the media for what it is:  a threat.
     A threat to our communities, a threat to our children, a threat to our democracy. 
     Yes, no question, people are waking up.  I'm getting calls from all over the country from folks who are ready to mobilize to make broadcasters serve the public interest again (like they're supposed to.)
       So let's go!   Watch the Broadcast Blues trailer .  Read some of the pieces I've linked below.


       Get ready to get mad.  Get ready to be inspired.  Get ready to take action.


"Why Did Donna Brazile Use the F-word in Oprah's Magazine? Hint: Rush Limbaugh"  (note: this story made quite a splash recently, it went all the way to Forbes website.  It links to many of the stories below.)
"FCC Doesn't Need No Stinkin' Rules (But Murder By Radio Must Stop")
"Communications Act Redux"
"Hate Radio and the War on Immigration"
 "Save Talk Radio! Really?"
"Radio Speech is not Free Speech!"
"Putting the Public Back Into Public Interest Broadcasting" 
"Boycotting Beck on Fox News"
"Lessons From the Right: Obama Tries to Regain the Message"
"Talk Radio Rules Blue Dog States"
"It's War.  Media War."
          "Citizens United is a  Media Reform Issue"


There's much more, just surf this site.


          We the People are Taking the Media Back!

Tuntland's Final Argument

November 17, 2010

Tuntland said the jury had been hearing Bakke talk about a whistleblower complaint and that there is no such thing as a whistleblower complaint.  He said there is activity you can engage in for which you cannot be punished, that's whistleblower activity.  He said in North Dakota an employee cannot be penalized for reporting a violation or a suspected violation of law.  He said Long reported Armstrong's journal to law enforcement, that was clearly a suspected violation of law.  He said Long also refused to participate in actions he believed to be in violation of state or federal law.  This was in regards to the Hatch Act and the alleged Chamber of Commerce letter writing campaign.  He said that the jury had been hearing that Bjornson said there was no violation, but that is not what Bjornson said at the time. 

Randy Bakke's Closing Statement

 November 17, 2010

Randy Bakke reminded the jury that it was Jim Long's burden of proof he was fired because he filed for whistleblower protection.  He reiterated Judge Goodman's instructions that Long had to prove three things:  1) that he be engaged in protected activity; 2) that WSI took adverse action against him; and 3) that a causal connection existed between his protected activity and his firing.  Bakke told the jury there was a lot of evidence that Jim Long filed for whistleblower protection because he was trying to save his job. 

Hard Stats About Talk Radio

 November 24, 2010

What would happen if one political party could control the message sent to 50 million Americans?  Answer:  We'd get more election results like the one we just had.

See the stats here:     Prepare to be frightened.
"Talk Radio Listeners Liberal v Conservative"

Mobilizing Now for Media Reform!

 November 23, 2010
 
     There's been a shift in energy since the election, can you feel it?  It's like a big bright light bulb turned on and folks are, maybe for the first time, clearly seeing the media for what it is:  a threat.
     A threat to our communities, a threat to our children, a threat to our democracy. 
     Yes, no question, people are waking up.  I'm getting calls from all over the country from folks who are ready to mobilize to make broadcasters serve the public interest again (like they're supposed to.)
       So let's go!   Watch the Broadcast Blues trailer .  Read some of the pieces I've linked below.

       Get ready to get mad.  Get ready to be inspired.  Get ready to take action.

"Why Did Donna Brazile Use the F-word in Oprah's Magazine? Hint: Rush Limbaugh"  (note: this story made quite a splash recently, it went all the way to Forbes website.  It links to many of the stories below.)
"FCC Doesn't Need No Stinkin' Rules (But Murder By Radio Must Stop")
"Communications Act Redux"
"Hate Radio and the War on Immigration"
 "Save Talk Radio! Really?"
"Radio Speech is not Free Speech!"
"Putting the Public Back Into Public Interest Broadcasting" 
"Boycotting Beck on Fox News"
"Lessons From the Right: Obama Tries to Regain the Message"
"Talk Radio Rules Blue Dog States"
"It's War.  Media War."

Here's an Action Item that we're working on for next year.   There's much more, just surf this site.

          We the People are Taking the Media Back!

Thomas Tuntland's Closing Statement

November 17, 2010

Thomas Tuntland's Closing Statement

Tuntland talked about the raft of documents in this case, and told the jury they need to print out and discuss the most important documents.

As to the jury instructions, he said the jury needed to find, by 51%, what was more likely:  had or had not Long been fired for engaging in retaliation for whistelblower activity.  He advised the jury that Long had not been fired as an isolated event.

He brought up the impeachment of Long's testimony that he'd told Bureau of Criminal Investigations' Mike Quinn that he had taken Mark Armstrong's journal from his office, despite telling the jury that Kay Grinsteinner had taken it.  Tuntland intimated that Long had been trying to protect Grinsteinner, and that her testimony, which was that she had taken the journal, had not been impeached.

He told the jury to pay close attention to Long's personnel file, to note there is not one bit of info in the file to support his firing. He noted that State Law requires that an employee has an opportunity to challenge any adverse information, which had not happened in this case.

He noted Long was an at will employee, and reminded the jury he could have been fired for wearing red socks.  But he could not be fired for reasons of race, religion, or filing a whistleblower action.

He said that Long had reported suspected law violations to law enforcement, and cited Long's turning over Mark Armstrong's journal to BCI's Quinn, believing in good faith that it contained evidence of criminal activity.  That subsequently turned into a search warrant for Armstrong's office.

He cited Long's refusal to participate in the Chamber of Commerce letter writing action, and said that although Long was not fired for that, nothing happens in a vacuum, that turning over the journal was the straw that broke the camel's back.

He referred to exhibit 17, a letter from Halvorson to WSI employees, saying that the Highway Patrol was conducting a criminal investigation.  Tuntland said the purpose of the letter was to induce employees not to participate in the investigation unless one of WSI's own attorneys were present.  He said Halvorson was trying to prevent employees from talking with police.

He also asked the jury to read the Armstrong journal and the State Auditor's report in detail, that they would show the culture of retaliation at WSI.

He pointed to Long's standing up to Blunt over the Chamber of Commerce letter writing incident as the turning point in Long's career at WSI, that marked the point at which Long was no longer in the club.  He said to consider that Long called WSI General Counsel Jodi Bjornson and got advice that the letter writing campaign was illegal.  Therefore, something made Long call Bjornson to inquire, while Blunt and Halvorson maintain no such conversation existed.
He asked what Long's motivation could have been in placing such a call;  he had a lot to lose. and little to gain.

Tuntland went through several details of the State Auditor's Reports, which showed a pattern of retaliation by WSI management against employees.  He noted that all the whistleblower actions filed, from Long, Flanagan, Peltz, Grinsteinner and Bjornson, noted fear of retaliation, and that Peltz had specifically noted that "executive management will go to any lengths to keep employees from speaking out."

He noted Sandy Blunt's anger over someone having published the public information of WSI salaries, and how he took immediate action to find out the sender.  He said the purpose was to retaliate.

He said that the jury had been told by Halvorson that he was looking at firing Long, but noted that Long never had an opportunity to challenge adverse information in his file.  Tuntland reminded the jury that the AG's Tim Wahlin said Long had received a copy of the reasons for his firing, but Tuntland noted that had not occurred until after Long filed for Whistleblower protection.

He asked the jury to look at the date Halvorson met with AG's Tag Anderson about Long's firing:  it was the same date as Long's meeting with BCI's Mike Quinn, which Long had publicly posted on his calendar.

He noted that Long had only talked with Quinn because Bjornson had suggested his name to Quinn.  he noted that Halvorson had advised employees they could refuse to talk with law enforcement, and that Long knew if he played along, if he'd refused to talk with Quinn, he'd be sitting pretty.  But he chose to talk, and was retaliated against for so doing.

He noted that Quinn's search warrant of Armstrong's office was the same day that Blunt's charges were dropped (although one was reinstated later.)  The Board had always maintained Blunt's innocence, and was going to reinstate him the following Monday.  He said Blunt was fully aware it was Long who let law enforcement into Armstrong's office.

Long and Peltz file for Whistelblower protection that weekend.

Monday, Blunt shows up with a hand written "side file," documenting earlier problems with Long and Peltz.  Blunt says he'd kept a similar file in his candy drawer, but it had disappeared.  That file went immediately to Tim Wahlin, who somehow knew there would be an open records request for the previously unknown document.

Tuntland said that Blunt had been working with media person Steve Cates to sully peoples' reputations by making public personnel information which could not be challenged by the employee. he said it was a great message to other WSI employees to shut up or else this is what happens.

He said Long knew that weekend he would be retaliated against, and that he had little choice.  He said Long laid a lot on the line: his name, reputation, saleability in his profession, job and income.

He asked the jury whether they thought Long really wanted to go through a three year lawsuit and a three week trial.

He noted that WSI's case was based on WSI's saying thet had intended to fire Long all along.  He asked then to judge WSI's credibility based on the State Auditors' report, which said, "there a number of areas where information provided by WSI is misleading and inaccurate, not only information provided to us during our audit, but information to legislators and other entities."

"That's WSI's credibility: Believe us, we were going to fire Jim Long," Tuntland said.

He noted that when Long was put on paid administrative leave, his notification letter was released to the press, and made Long look like a criminal: he was not allowed in the WSI building, he couldn't talk with WSI employees.  It didn't say why, Tuntland said, but the reason was that Long had ratted out Blunt, had ratted out Armstrong, and could not come back.  he said it was a broader message to WSI employees to watch out.

He noted that the only four people interviewed in WSI's investigation of allegations were the four who filed whistleblower complaints.

He said it took seventy five days for Long to get notice why he'd been dismissed, and that he kept asking a peer, not a superior, for reasons he's been put on leave, and asked how the stated plan for his reinstatement was going.  He said Long finally received an insulting letter from Halvorson saying he was working on a reinstatement plan.  Tuntland noted the only way Long could have gotten his job back was to apologize for tattling on Blunt and Armstrong.

He asked the jury to look at exhibit 17, which showed that the investigation of Long's allegations had not talked to a single witness, not one.

He said that two Board Members complained they did not have enough time to review Long's appeal packet, and he asked the jury to review the State Auditor's report as well, and note that one of it's issues was of board members being poorly informed.  He said there had been no change at WSI, including regarding retalation.

He noted that not a single investigation had found Long was at fault for anything, but that he was fired anyway.

He reminded the jury that just prior to Blunt's going on leave, he had written a glowing report of Long, saying his integrity was beyond question.  He noted Halvorson had also written a glowing report about Long not long before his being put on leave.

He said Long got fired because he'd testified against Sandy Blunt, and that Blunt got convicted.  He said Long's firing was a message to other WSI employees.

Regarding allegations of a relationship between Long and Peltz, Tuntland asked, "where's the beef?"  He pointed to innocuous emails ... closed but unlocked door meetings ... Billie giggled ... Jim wore a fairy outfit to Halloween and made Billie's kids feel good ... "Where's the beef?"

He reminded the jury the Long had obtained permission from legal to tape record Hutchings and others... and that after an investigation, it had been determined Long had done nothing wrong.

He said allegations that Long had gone out of bounds by going to the board over problems with the $14 million ITTP project was justified by the state's Justin Data raising red flags over recent management changes.

He said WSI tried to manufacture reasons for Long's dismissal.

Tuntland reiterated to the jury that the only damages being sought were for back pay of $135,235.00 .

He concluded that the atmosphere at WSI was retaliatory:  that even WSI's Board Chair had targeted the State's attorney when WSI went under its microscope.

He asked the jury to consider what kind of integrity WSI has.

Judge Goodman's Instructions to the Jury

November 17, 2010

Judge Ronald Goodman gave detailed instructions to the jury in how to decide the case of Jim Long v WSI. 

The overarching question:  Was James Long fired for engaging in whistleblower activity?

Judge Goodman said the burden of proof was on Long to show that 1) he had engaged in protected activity, 2) that WSI took adverse action against him, and 3) that there was a casual connection between Long's activity and WSI's adverse action.  Long must prove all three to prevail.

Protected activity was defined as reporting suspected violations of the rules, regulations, or the law to authorities.

He told the jury they could consider credibility of witnesses, and said that depositions carried the same weight as witness testimony in court. 

Goodman instructed the jury that Long had not asserted the First Amendment in this case; he said that government employees do retain the First Amendment right, but that a government employer does have broad authority to restrict speech.  he said the First Amendment does not allow someone to Constitutionalize an employer grievance.

The judge also said the jury may consider whether WSI acted in good faith on advice of counsel.