KKOB Radio News Anchor Laura MacCallum Quits After Station Pulls Stories About Alleged Republican Vote-Buying Efforts
Ex-anchor Says Station Caved to Pressure From Heather Wilson’s Senate Campaign
Station Says Story Had No Legs
By Dennis Domrzalski
KKOB Radio afternoon drive time news anchor Laura MacCallum quit her job last Thursday after the station’s news director pulled her stories about alleged vote-buying efforts at the recent Bernalillo County Republican Party delegate nominating conventions.
MacCallum, a 32-year radio and TV news veteran who has worked in
Critics of the alleged vote-buying effort say it was an unfair scheme to lock out any challengers to
KKOB News Director Pat Allen said the stories were pulled, not because of the campaign’s complaints, but because he felt they lacked corroboration and that a source in some of MacCallum’s stories, former New Mexico Governor Dave Cargo, was bitter because he wasn’t elected as a delegate to the upcoming state Republican Party nominating convention.
“I talked to Heather Wilson’s campaign and they expressed concerns that the stories had no basis in fact,” Allen said, adding that he also talked to sate a Republican Party official about MacCallum’s stories, which were broadcast last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
MacCallum was outraged by the situation.
“I had an ethical problem with the stories being pulled because Heather Wilson’s campaign put pressure on newsroom management,” MacCallum said. “They allowed political pressure to dictate the news. As journalists we can’t do that. The news has to stand alone. That a political candidate can inject herself into news department management is just mind blowing. Should we just be doing the Heather Wilson news? And as soon as we make her angry she’s going to call and start giving everybody trouble?
“If a political campaign can bring pressure on a news department to change how they cover the news, that is a disservice to everyone who listens. We are not there to make everybody happy; we are there to do the news. And if we don’t do that if we are serving as the biggest PR agency in the state of
Flabbergasted by Memo; Bloggers Didn’t Have the Story
MacCallum was also flabbergasted by a memo she got from News Director Allen on Thursday morning before she quit. The memo said that because there were no official investigations of criminal wrongdoing into the matter, the story would go nowhere. It also suggested that the story wasn’t valid because bloggers and other news outlets hadn’t picked it up. Here’s Allen’s memo:
“From: "Pat Allen" <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2008 09:22:27 -0800
i pulled the cargo stories. i'm troubled by his motivation as he was not selected as a delegate. unless there is an official investigation of criminal wrongdoing related to these meetings then the story is going nowhere.
it's also a very inside politics story that i don't think has much importance to our listeners.
also, don't you think if there was anything to it the bloggers would have picked this up, let alone other news agencies?
this is the kind of story that has to be fully developed and verified before it can air.
pat allen news director 770 kkob radio,
“We’ve billed ourselves as the news leader, and now we can’t do stories unless other news outlets and bloggers do them? That’s not right,” MacCallum said. MacCallum wrote her resignation letter after reading Allen’s memo.
Allegations of Vote Buying
The allegations of vote buying stem from the Bernalillo County Republican Party ward conventions on February 17. The conventions were held to nominate delegates to the state party’s March 15 statewide convention. At that convention, the delegates who were who were elected on Feb. 17 will select candidates to be on the GOP’s June primary election ballot.
Cargo says he noticed something different when 59 people showed up at the Albuquerque Marriott to elect delegates from the 31st ward in
“This is probably the biggest ward in the city, by far. Normally we have between 9 and 15 people show up,” Cargo said. “And so along comes the convention on Sunday and 59 people show up.”
Cargo began passing around a signup sheet. “I said ‘I’m going to pass around notebook and would like to have you write down your names and address and phone number so I can call you and put you to work for the party,’” Cargo said. “Then one gal got up and said, ‘We aren’t working for any party; we’re here only this one time and we won’t be back.’”
Cargo said that over the course of the meeting many of the participants said they were from
“I told them that this was known as vote buying, that it was illegal and that it was fourth-degree felony,” Cargo said. “I said, ‘You can’t buy votes. We’re not in
MacCallum attended Cargo’s convention and said she heard many participants say that they had been paid to show up and vote for a specific slate of candidates. Cargo ran for a delegate spot, but didn’t get enough votes.
State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque, said she saw the same thing in the 24th Ward’s convention. Many of the participants said they had been paid to attend and vote for certain delegates, she said.
“They were free about telling us why they were there and what they were trying to do,” Arnold-Jones added. “Some people said they had been paid to participate in the convention. It was clear that some of them had no stake in the process and that they were not coming back for the convention.”
Denials and Non-answers
White is running for the First Congressional District seat that is being vacated by
“I’m not going to respond to anything Dave Cargo says unless you have a tape recording of him. I’m not going to have any comment on this until Mr. Cargo puts his complaints in writing to the Republican Party,”
For Cargo, the affair smells of vote buying and constitutes a fourth-degree felony. Two portions of the state’s election code apply, he says. They are:
“1-20-11. Offering a bribe. (1969)
Offering a bribe consists of willfully advancing, paying, or causing to be paid, or promising, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable consideration, office or employment, to any person for the following purposes connected with or incidental to any election:
B. to induce such person, if a precinct board member or other election official, to mark, alter, suppress or otherwise change any ballot that has been cast, any election return, or any certificate of election; or
C. to induce such person to use such payment or promise to bribe others for the purposes specified in this section.
Whoever offers a bribe is guilty of a fourth degree felony,” and:
“1-20-12. Accepting a bribe. (1969)
Accepting a bribe consists of knowingly accepting any payment or promise of payment, directly or indirectly, of money, valuable consideration, office or employment for the unlawful purposes specified in Section 1-20-11 NMSA 1978.
Whoever accepts a bribe is guilty of a fourth degree felony.”
Cargo said that Wilson’s and White’s campaigns strong-armed the conventions in an attempt to lock out challengers come March 15:
“Of the 14 delegates elected from my ward, only two are active in the party. They shut everybody out and they will never be back. This is no way to run a democracy; it’s a raw deal.”