KGMI and Ken Mann

Byy On

There has been some behind the scenes controversy over Cascade Radio Groups decision to allow Ken Mann to continue to be on the air from 5pm-6pm five days a week while also being a declared candidate for County Council. It seemed pretty obvious to many people that Ken Mann should have left the show when he announced his candidacy and filed his intention to run with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, but it now appears that he will not leave the show until filing week in early June.

The apparent arguments for allowing Ken to continue his co-hosting role seems to be that his candidacy is not official until filing week, that it is not a PDC violation, and that it is not that big a deal anyway. I am not sure who at CRG made those decisions, but they are contradicting all precedence and those complaining about the decision have legitimate concerns. When Brett Bonner announced his candidacy for the mayor of Bellingham five years ago, management at that time decided he had to leave the air immediately and Brett was cut back to part-time work and could not host the morning show. Brett declared earlier in the campaign process, but in that instance CRG came up with a completely different answer. I realize that management has changed, but the fact is the precedence for what should happen was determined 5 years ago and all of the suddenly changing it now is arbitrary and capricious. Recently, Chris Matthews of MSNBC fame was contemplating a run for the 2010 Senate against Arlene Spector. The controversy was not about whether Chris Matthews would have to leave the show when he declared, but whether he should have that level of media access while even exploring a senate campaign. Chris Matthews knew he had to quit his job at MSNBC as soon as he declared to avoid the appearance of having an unfair campaign advantage. Although slightly less relevant to this situation, but Fred Thompson quite Law and Order when he was deciding whether to be a presidential candidate. It could be argued that he did not have the time to do both and therefore quit to focus on the campaign, but again it was a given that he could not be on TV weekly while also being a candidate. The fact is elections are supposed to be fair, and it is impossible to be fair when one declared candidate gets daily air-time while his opponent does not.

Having been a former candidate, I am fully aware of the media’s desire for impartiality when it comes to candidates. They were very clear at KGMI that if they had me on the air they had to give equal time to my opponent. This not only pertained to being on air as a guest on one of the shows, but even advertising as well. The fact is that a person becomes a candidate for office when they announce they are running for a particular public office and then must file a C1 report with the PDC declaring their intention to run and raise money. This is not a PDC issue as they regulate campaign contributions and expenditures so the fact that the PDC does not care is irrelevant. The June filing deadline is an arbitrary date so the county auditor has a firm decision on who is running and who is not so they can begin preparing for the primary elections. The campaign begins as soon as the candidate announces his/her intentions to run for office. Never before has a person not been consider a candidate until filing week when they announced earlier that they were running and began raising funds. CRG, KGMI, and Ken Mann blew it on this issue and he should have left the show as soon as he announced he was running. They have set a dangerous precedence and gone against good ethical policies when it comes to dealing with candidates who are on-air personalities. Any candidate for the 2nd district has a valid argument that they should get equal airtime and should pursue it with CRG. It is time for Ken Mann to leave the show to avoid any potential improperities and complaints of lack of fairness, or alternatively, Patti Brooks should go ahead and announce her candidacy now for next year’s state representative elections and then stay on the air until next June picking up a year of free media along the way.

About Craig Mayberry

Closed Account • Member since Jan 17, 2008

While writing his articles from 2008 to 2011, Craig lived near Lynden and taught at both Whatcom Community College and Western Washington University. He was active in politics and ran for public [...]

Comments by Readers

John Servais

May 13, 2009

Craig, you are right.  Completely correct.  And as I’m a liberal progressive and have no doubt that I’ll be strongly supporting Ken Mann for the county council, I’m still appalled that he is staying on the air after declaring. 

When Ham Hayes declared for Port Commission a couple weeks ago, he and I talked it over and he decided it would be best if he did not post any more articles on NwCitizen until he was no longer a candidate.  We didn’t announce that or anything.  It just seemed the right thing to do.  Ham has a strong sense of ethics.

Ken Mann should stand down from KGMI immediately.  The law and the PDC are not the arbiters of what is right and wrong.  Ken lessens his standing as an honorable candidate the longer he stays on KGMI.  If he reconsiders and steps down now then this will probably not become a campaign issue.  We all allow for a minor mistake quickly corrected.


g.h. kirsch

May 13, 2009

Oh spare me you guys.  Official - unofficial what’s the difference.  He’s running unopposed as far as I can see.

Ken really enjoys his radio job.  And he earns money doing it.  How cavalier for you all to tell him he must quit.

He doesn’t even have an opponent that would trigger some “equal time” issues. 

If one announces, or even if one suggests they might run against him, I know he’ll give up the job he really loves until the election is over.

If no one runs against him, why should he have to give up a day job to run for office?


John Servais

May 14, 2009

Greg, you seem very casual about the ethics of campaigning and elections.  And you seem to want the rest of us to ‘relax’ and chill and just let things flow. 

Sorry.  Ken Mann staying on KGMI is inappropriate and it is worth pointing out.  Your statement admits to the wrongness of it when you say he might exit if he gets an opponent.  Hmmm - so you think he might get a free ride?  I doubt that.

And then we have John Blethen who continues to serve on the Waterfront Advisory Group - and appear on Channel 10 when they broadcast the WAG proceedings.  He also should exit his position.  Staying there allows him - as it does Ken - to posture for voters.  As a candidate he can play to the public while appearing to be doing public service.  This gives him an unfair advantage over other candidates.


g.h. kirsch

May 14, 2009


It’s hard to know whether to take you seriously or not. 

Do you mean to assert that a candidate running for office needs to resign from a job that might expose them favorably to the public even though they have no opponent?

And in John Blethen’s case:  do you mean to suggest that holders of an even trivial public office that might shine the light of publicity on them for their work need resign as well?

If a congressman wants to run for the senate, must he resign the house first?

Perhaps the wealthy, before they run for office, should have to give their fortune to the poor so as not to have an advantage over less well off candidates.

Bloomberg should have changed his name before running for mayor.

“The ethics of campaigning.”  Now there’s a concept!  If I were a philosophy professor how would I organize the reading list?  Well, Machiavelli is out… Disraeli ???

Be careful John.  You’re starting to sound like an echo of Elisabeth Britt.


Craig Mayberry

May 14, 2009


You are missing the point.  The issue is not in keeping ones job, it is an issue of precedence and the fairness that comes along with changing precedence.  Brett Bonner had to leave the radio as soon as he announced, why is Ken Mann any different.  Are you suggesting that Brett did not like his job so it is OK that he had to leave, but because Ken loves his job he should be allowed to stay.  The argument that he does not have an opponent is meaningless as well.  When KGMI and Ken decided to stay on the radio there was no opponent, but there was no way of knowing at that time when and if an opponent will emerge. 

KGMI and Ken Mann changed the precedence and for no apparent good reason, which for many comes across as arbitrary and unfair.  There could be an argument made that Brett had to leave because he was conservative, but Ken gets to stay because he is liberal.  I know that is not the case, but frankly it is a better argument then what you and others have provided.

In terms of a representative running for senate, there is again a lot of precedence for that and you do not have to step down.  Every politician has kept their jobs while running for a different office and therefore there is no issue with that.  In this case, Brett Bonner, Chris Matthews, and others have stepped down or planned on stepping down as soon as they announced, so why is Ken different from everyone else.  The other difference between an on air personality and a politician is the politician is not getting daily free media while their opponent does not. 

There is a long held media belief in being fair to candidates and other jobs and industry are not analogous.  Politicians who switch positions have a clear advantage of name recognition.  Ken was very wise and got a year or two of daily media and the name recognition that comes with it.  That was smart politics on his part and certainly gives him a huge advantage over anyone else that runs, but nonetheless, once you announce it is time to get off the air just like everyone else has done.

Your other arguments relate to why we need public campaign financing to eliminate the advantage that comes from wealth.


John Lesow

May 16, 2009

In the 2004 County Council race, real estate professional Mike Kent ran against Carl Weimer.

Kent continued hosting his Radio Real Estate program on KGMI long into the campaign.  It was no accident that the ad spots on KGMI also featured Mike pitching Darby Estates as “affordable housing”.  The spots were designed to:

(1) boost sagging sales for a condo development with an unmarketable, Eastern Bloc proletariat design and, (2) identify Mike in the minds of voters as the populist champion of Affordable Housing in Whatcom County.

“Affordable Housing” has a magical political ring in County politics.  Forget the fact that your political vision is a sea of roofs from Bellingham Bay to the slopes of Mount Baker, buoyed under the shifting currents of “affordability”.  Just pitch the concept in your ad spots and omit the details—sort of like our President promising “Change” and neglecting to mention he will bankrupt the country to achieve it.

The Kent/KGMI Affordability Broadcast Bandwagon delighted the County GOP, who remained uniformly silent about the ethical/equal time considerations.  Concern in Whatcom County’s liberal community was scattered, primarily because the Birkenstock and Brie crowd does not listen to KGMI.

Weimer’s campaign eventually called “foul” in late fall and the Mike Kent spots on KGMI came down. But the damage was done, not to Carl Weimer but to Mike Kent.

I am convinced that Mike would have won the election if he had voluntarily left his Radio Real Estate show the day he declared his candidacy and killed the “affordability” pitch for Dingy Estates.  Instead, voters were given several months to ruminate about the true intentions of Kent the Candidate and Kent the Pitchman.

If Mike’s campaign focus was practical preservation of the environment, rather than his Jaycee pitch for removing stream buffers, he could have succeeded in establishing the environmental bona fides necessary to gain election to public office in Whatcom County.  But he failed to do that and lost the election.

Mann’s record as a County Planning Commissioner has bridged the environmental divide that would confound most propertyrightswingers considering a run for office.  But Mann’s continuing presence on KGMI does nothing to bolster his candidacy in the minds of voters.  If another candidate files for County Council District 2, Ken should leave the show immediately and gracefully, which is his style.

Even if he is unopposed, he should be off the air and out ringing doorbells by June 5.

John Lesow


Sharon Crozier

May 21, 2009

If Blethen’s position were a paid, government position, and he intended to ask for the endorsement of a political party, it would be a violation of the federal Hatch Act.

Since he is, I believe, a volunteer, there is no illegality.

As for ethics, unless he has frequent and scheduled appearances, candidates shouldn’t have to hide from the public eye. In fact, it is right and ethical to seek it out. Channel 10 is one of the few economic levelers when running against an incumbent. It would be grossly unfair to say a challenger can’t be on channel 10 while the incumbent enjoys multiple appearances every week.

I hope Mr. Blethen enjoys this minuscule moment in the public eye…

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