Monday, March 3, 2008

Radio Station Caves to Heather Wilson's Campaign

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 Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles, said the station caved to complaints from Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s Senate campaign about the stories. Wilson campaign spokeswoman Whitney Cheshire called the station to argue the unfairness of stories alleging that many delegates to the ward conventions were paid by Wilson’s and other campaigns to show up and cast their votes for certain delegates.

Critics of the alleged vote-buying effort say it was an unfair scheme to lock out any challengers to Wilson’s senate and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White’s congressional campaigns

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 New Mexico and we are not doing our jobs.”

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" <>
Reply-To: <>
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 Albuquerque.

“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 Wilson’s senate campaign and from Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White’s congressional campaign. Several people told him they were being paid $35-an-hour (for two hours) by their campaigns and that the campaigns had also paid their $30 registration fees.

“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 Chicago or St. Louis.’ They just blinked and looked at me. They didn’t see anything wrong with it.”

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 Wilson. A source in his campaign flatly denied paying campaign workers to attend the conventions and vote for certain candidates.

Wilson’s spokeswoman Cheshire refused to answer our questions about the issue.

“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,” Cheshire said.

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:

A. to induce such person, if a voter, to vote or refrain from voting for or against any candidate, proposition, question or constitutional amendment;

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.”


Keezee said...

Saw this on DailyKos, great work. Real reporting, I'm shocked.

phat-chance said...

The radio coverage of non-GOP views in ABQ is beyond dismal. Clear Channel gets free signal feeds from Air America so advertising revenue isn't disrupted by overhead costs of producing a local show. Clear Channel has shown no interest, even on a trial basis, of hosting a local drive time news and talk show.

Between disenfranchisement and media blackouts of progressive dem news it's no wonder elections are lost.

Between now and the election the average daily time spent listening to radio will grow enormously as ordinary people try to find real news. Good luck with that, folks.

We need a radio station!

Socorro News said...

We've informed our readers of this story (and linked to your article) at Socorro News - we hope this story is further investigated and KKOB is not able to stifle the investigation.

Anonymous said...

If only Laura had cooled down before she decided to quit.
Quiting plays into the hands of the very forces that got management to bow. It's a common story that acting on principle costs the most.
And it's so much easier to watch someone else go through something like this than it is to jump in.
From Tucson, I Wish you luck, Laura!

Anonymous said...

The neat thing about stations is that normal citizens can go put comments in their local station's public file.

This way you can leave your comment on record that you don't like the fascism they pump out because it isn't in the public interest and that they do not deserve license renewal or spectrum.

If you interested in getting fascism off our airwaves this is the way. Complain to the FCC too.

Stations that are not in the public interest and are not to inform the people don't need to be around.

xeltifon said...

Excellent article.

Well done.

Thank you.

TomaHawk said...

I'm amazed that Pat Allen did not consider that his reporter had scored a news scoop. That his station was first with the news. A leader rather than a follower. If he were not otherwise influenced, it would have been prudent of him to assign additional resources to get confirmation of the original story. If the original were to be corroborated, the value of the bragging rights would be enormous. His actions seem to be in reaction to political pressure.

Anonymous said...

Who (or is that whom?) do we register our official complaints with? Is it the State Attorney General? The district 1 District Attorney? I want this crime investigated! I am tired of New Mexico being the laughing stock second only to Florida when it comes to issues pertaining to Election fraud and influence peddling. Funny how it always seems to track back to that unethical republican named Heather Wilson.

Dennis... I once called a radio talk show you were hosting and Dave Cargo was a guest. He didn't believe me when I said there was massive election fraud (in that case electronic black box fraud). Maybe now he realizes this generation of Republicans is anything but lilly white!

Anonymous said...

Dennis and everybody on this blog should be ashamed of themselves. If you want the real scoop and good reporting, not just crazed rantings of some junkyard dog blogger with no credibility who is anything but a respectable reporter you should check out Heath's piece on this subject.

ya bunch of sore losers!

Mike Blessing said...

1. From I was told last night after the Ron Paul meetup by a GOP insider, Cargo only caught the tip of the iceberg -- Cargo counter 59 paid-for attendees, while this guy cited over 400 paid for by the Wilson/White machine.

2. Wilson most likely did this because she's getting her ass kicked all over the state by Steve Pearce -- if she lost Bernalillo County, she'd be done for.

Anonymous said...

Someone should do an investigation on Laura just to see exactly what her intent in life is. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against that bitter old woman. Ask the people at(KGGM)KRQE News-13 about her short Executive Producer job she was fired from after only 3-months...

Oh, and ask her how she tried to get other news operations in ABQ to do her (hear-say) Cargo story before hers ran. Now thats a NEWS WOMAN...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Someone should do an investigation on Laura just to see exactly what her intent in life is. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against that bitter old woman. Ask the people at(KGGM)KRQE News-13 about her short Executive Producer job she was fired from after only 3-months...

Oh, and ask her how she tried to get other news operations in ABQ to do her (hear-say) Cargo story before hers ran. Now thats a NEWS WOMAN...

Why hide? Are you from the Republican party of Heather? You people will find out one day when your kids or grand-children confront you how utterly Stalinist you have behaved. Oh yeah, your kids will NOT be proud! By the way what would Jesus do as your party like sto say...I suspect taht he would not cheat or act like a fuc&ing a$$hole!

LP said...

Anonymous, according to Federal District Court Filings, MacCallum has never been a defendant. She was the defendant of one case in New Mexico court, but it was dismissed with prejudice (which means the plaintiff is barred from bringing an action on the same claim).

So your attempt to swiftboat MacCallum is, unfortunately, easily disputed.

FreeLancer said...

I worked in the KGGM/KRQE newsroom 24 years, and I wouldn't ask any of the ethically challenged people in that place, past or present, to recall Laura's short tenure as Executive Producer, especially her successor. Is that you "Anonymous?"
The state of corporate-owned news media in New Mexico, a.k.a. the Albuquerque market, is dismal and growing worse by the day. Influenced by Republican pressure doesn't even begin to tell the story.

The Voice said...

The story just got picked up on Alternet Blog

Tony Sheffield said...

It's not Pat Allen's station. He's the News Director, but he doesn't choose the programming. He just decides what's newsworthy.

You all talk like "management" tried to stifle the story. But Allen isn't even management. He's just another reporter with veto power. He doesn't put Rush & Hannity on the air. He does news.

Do some research on radio newsrooms. They have 10 minutes to do the news and that didn't make the cut. According to Maccallum's story, it DID make the cut for three days prior. IT RAN FOR THREE DAYS.

Allen's just a scapegoat for Maccallum.

Sven said...

Good Job!: )

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