New Settler Editor, Beth Bosk
On KZYX and John Sakowicz
This is an editorial published in the July, 2009 edition of New Settler Magazine. I have not called Beth to ask for permission to put this up, yet. I will call her but I don't think she'll mind. Beth was also at the recent (July) meeting of the KZYX board. The financial crisis and the layoff of Christina A. were the big topics at that meeting. I watched a video of the meeting on-line. Beth was eloquent and irrepressible. Things are not going well, folks. More info about the meeting soon, I hope. Just got a call from Zac Zackary who says that meetings are taking place on the coast around the current situation at the Philo station.
At the end of this piece Beth says: "I'm looking for folks who want to move KZYX away from its top-down, turf-driven corporate structure towards a round-table approach to programming and management."
I'm definitely going to give her a call. KC 7-13-09.
The Editorial by Beth Bosk:
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I'm going to start with a story about Judi Bari.
When Judi's car was bombed in Oakland and she, immediately blamed by the Oakland police and FBI, then taken, barely conscious, to the jail unit of a local hospital where she was shackled; the call went out for a 24 hour a day vigil at the hospital. So many folks from Mendocino County answered that call, broadcast and updated daily on KZYX (almost 20 years gone by, only two seasons on the air) that the FBI came to the station and told manager, Sean Donovan the station would lose its new license if it broadcast any information about Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney other than that Provided in FBI releases.
This really happened. A memo was attached to the large glass in the studio, prohibiting updates from activists in Oakland and any calls to assemble at the vigil, a vigil that in effect was keeping Judi safe and alive.
I was the sole public affairs programmer at the station; a DJ called me when the Memo went up and asked me what should be done: a new phone update had just come in from Earth First!.
"Tear it down," I told the programmer. "That's prior restraint"- a phrase I had picked up less than a fortnight before. "They can't redact what you say before you say it."
That was the end of FBI interference with the tremendous outpouring of support for Judi.
KZYX/Z General Manager John Coate has gone rooting in the FCC rule book and arbitrarily discontinued opportunities for listeners to call into the morning public affairs shows with announcements of quick-reaction rallies and actions, requests for communiques to government agencies relevant to the issues that are always stunningly in our faces, and often enough alleviated by local outcry.
The great loss is access to the Monday morning Reality Show, But there have been secondary consequences: the dullness of one voice sing-songing a list of scheduled events to elevator music. Another is an insidious reduction in open line contact with the guests and hosts of the public affairs programming. It began last year with the closure of the lines to "The Truth About Money," where there has been no opportunity to either probe or challenge John Sacowicz's wild claims of say, teleconferencing with the Obama Economic team during the Transition period--or anything he says about himself--and no opportunity for locals to engage in brief dialog with his guests. The reasons for closing of the lines changed as Sakowicz moved from Jay Johnson's Ukiah Valley studio to the Philo quarters with lines galore. What hasn't changed is the listeners remain locked out.
When I sit down and write this story for New Settler, it will be cast as a modern day morality tale: as to how one benighted charlatan vaulted up the progressive media ladder. And how there began to develop a pivotal construct: the ethically opposite responses to the same sensational information re: John Sacowicz by the two most crucial of the alt-media swept up in his scams.
Two regional media: one a weekly lifestyle tabloid; the other a 24/7 public radio station with an hour slotted for local news.
One media, entrepreneurial. The other, non-profit, member supported.
One compiled by a seasoned, understaffed joumalist. The other managed by a GM with no prior radio experience, who got the job at the urging of his buddy, a member of the KZYX/Z Board of Directors; its news department passed into the hands of a fool who came to the station a complete stranger, and was given unitary power over the local newscast.
When I called Gretchen Giles, the editor of the North Bay Bohemian, to tell her I was working on a story of how it was that a con man (John Sakowicz, in this case) could so swiftly rise up the progressive media ladder--the Bohemian, Ukiah Valley TV, our NPR-affiliate KZYXlZ (the bi-weekly morning program, promptly sprawling into a nightly gig jawboning Wall Street with the news director); Free Speech Radio, a post on the Institute for Public Accuracy, Al Jazeera. Sirius Radio the latest tit-for-tat; The Colbert Report the next gleam in his eye--without ever having Sakowicz's totally fabricated wealth and work history seriously vetted. I informed Gretchen of the content of a series of Boston Globe stories; AND--just as starters--the inconsistency of Sacowicz's most recent job in Mendocino County as a corrections officer at the Mendocino County jail, with his having founded and managed a multi-billion dollar offshore hedge fund he was still claiming extant. Gretchen Giles gasped, opened up her computer, went straight to the search words that brought up the Boston Globe series.
In 1992, the Boston Globe published 12 articles involving Sakowicz; beginning with his nine month volunteer stint as the associate director of a Massachusetts state Republican fundraising group called Commonwealth Business Council, where his task was to shake down minority vendors doing business with the state, as well as solicit donations from business executives with promises of access to Weld administration officials from lists provided by the Republican governor's staff.
John Sakowicz worked those many months as a full-time volunteer for the fund raising operation with the expectation of a paying job when it was over. One article reported a Letter of Recommendation (written months before the scandal broke) in which two state Republican leaders "praised Sakowicz's fund-raising to a Colorado businessman who was hiring fundraisers for a Republican candidate for the US Senate." This was one of four recommendations from top ranking state Republicans John accrued for his search for a paying position. It was only when no job came of it, that Sakowicz opted for the notoriety as a "whistle blower" and himself went to the Boston Globe.
Frank Philips the chief investigative reporter dug further and found a $20,000 civil suit filed in Baltimore; several fellow investors in an investment club claimed Sacowicz had embezzled $20,000. Sakowicz admitted to the embezzlement charges, and excused himself by telling Phillips, he was a cocaine addict then. "Back when I was an active addict, I had no moral judgment," the Boston Globe reports Sacowicz saying. "That was 10 years ago. Since that time, I have asked for a lot of people's forgiveness ... My credibility as a person in recovery is strong, unshakable."
It is during this period of "unshakable recovery" while he was immersed full-time in volunteer work (two years all-told, counting the year in the office of the governor's chief secretary, from which he was ousted) that Sakowicz now claims in his several lnternet profiles, that he was co-founding and managing Battle Mountain Research Group, a multibillion dollar offshore hedge fund headquartered in the Grand Caymans.
But it was also the decade Sacowicz/Sacowitz was masquerading as a gay man with HIV AIDs (which he has done several times since, for monetary gain); in this case, the Boston Globe reported Sacowicz disappeared a $12,000 grant for a special housing program for people living with AIDS. Sakowicz claimed he used the money to set up a network of privately owned "safe houses" whose owners took in homeless AIDs patients. The lawyer who did legal work for the social service agency where Sakowicz was hired as shelter director, told the Globe "he was never able to give any accounting for the funds."
What is on the record is a job as a motel desk clerk on the east coast, a campgrounds manager at Pikes Peak, and a jailer in Mendocino County. It appears that for much of his adult life, John Sakowicz has been often a vagabond and near broke.
The response of the editor of the North Bay Bohemian to the Boston Globe series was shock and outrage: immediate recognition of how her experience connected; an openness and a willingness to organize the always scarce resources of the regional press in tandem. To disclose this information about a columnist whose career she'd unwittingly launched.
Doing so while working her way through the blocks and filters of a media chain.
While Arcata attorney, Steve Schectman, John Sakowicz's new co-host on "The Truth About Money"--and non-disclosed business associate in a recently registered LLC bond fund, Templar Advisors; the papers were registered from Schectman's law offices, the same address as Vicilla, LLC: the forestland-conversion-into-large-marijuana-farms-with-bulldozers limited liability corporation Schectman formerly served as president and chief legal officer-until his partner, the son of a former Humboldt County Supervisor, was indicted by the feds.
Schectman barraged Giles with insinuations of a SLAPP suit (the sole purpose of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation is to chill citizens, often journaiists, from exercising their Constitutionally protected speech; punishing those who have done so: chilling further reportage: often characterizing it as libel or Malice or Gossip) if she so much as dropped John Sacowicz as a columnist. For without the prestige of the North Bay Bohemian to point to, Sacowicz and Schectman would lose their foremost media platform, the underpinning of the business plan.
And they panicked when Gretchen showed signs of unraveling Sacowicz's deceits. Not only was she checking backwards on his past employment she was thrusting forward, contacting the IPA, this most prominent of Progressive Speakers bureaus.
From his Washington, D.C. office, IPA communications director Sam Hussein told Giles: "We didn't do a background check. He's a self-nominated expert; most on our roster come to us through recommendations, People who knock on our door are an extreme minority. I checked with [IPA founder] Norman Solomon and he had words for praise for The Bohemian. I sent a few of Sakowicz's articles to economists for the content--is this guy saying reasonable things? They said, yeah, he was."
Gretchen Giles is a seasoned, understaffed journalist who has a staff of 1 1/2 employees. Her Nexis/Lexis was reduced to California searches. How she knitted together an investigative team is its own movie. More than anyone, Gretchen Giles knows how reflective of the state of journalism in this nation is this morality tale. She's the editor of a weekly tabloid that covers two counties. She supplements the work of her "staff" with rotating columnists with engaging writing styles about matters their resumes appear to verify. The Boston Globe set five investigative reporters loose on their multi-part series investigating the Commonwealth Business Council scandal in 1992. And now, all those desks are empty.
If you want local news in newsprint these days, you got to go to the regional tabloids, Hank Sims up in Humboldt County behind the editor's desk at North Coast Journal, me in my virtual log cabin, Bruce Anderson and his new Columbia School of Journalism trained reporter.
What you are going to get in a lifestyle tabioid these days is a combination of good blogging, and knowledgeable columnists doing news.
That's how, a benighted charlatan and a crafty lawyer launched a clever business plan while passing themselves off as the next flavor of The Power of the People ready to Lead the Assault on the Bastille (in their own words) How Sakowicz vaults up the progressive media ladder. Along his way acquiring gullible, but well-placed and stubborn cohorts. How that rise up the media ladder, that comfort zone created in the minds of progressive audiences, becomes the crucial element for an edgy (potentially) multi-billion dollar, offshore, western-centric, Muslim-like bond fund.
John passed himself off to the editor of the Bohemian as a Sonoma County hedge fund manager, the former national sales manager for futures and commodities at Dean Willer blah, blah, biah. He was full of decisive Wall Street shop talk. Giles contracted him to write an occasional column for a $100 honorarium. In exchange, John wanted a Bohemian email address and his own Extension # on their phone. He had the honorariums made out to his teen-age stepson who he passed off as his intern, and to a "research assistant" who turned out to be one of his daughters. By having the honorariums made out in their names, he avoided providing the Bohemian with his Social Security number. Even when the hunches tickled, Gretchen was unable to verify his past employments.
As soon as Gretchen Giles understood the depth of Sacowicz's deception she canceled the email account he had set up at the Bohemian, cut off the extension he had insisted upon because (said he) SEC regs prohibited him from using his office phone. She pulled all his past columns from the Bohemian website. By persistent sleuthing, she discovered his important international, hedge fund job at the United Bank Switzerland was a stint as an "Unregistered Trainee": There's no evidence he ever passed a necessary Series 7 test on first try ... Do I have your attention. Request a copy of the much longer text in progress at nsi@mcn,org. KZYX/Z General Manager John Coate refuses to allow this story to be aired. I'm looking for folks who want to move KZYX away from its top-down, turf-driven corporate structure towards a round-table approach to programming and management. To read Gretchen Giles piece in the Bohemian punch in www.bohemian.com Gretchen Giles 05.06.09 --Beth Bask